I’ve been cut out of a family member’s Will – what can I do?

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Sadly, strained relationships and family disputes sometimes go unresolved and can continue to have an impact even after a loved one has died. This can occasionally manifest itself in a family member inheriting less than they anticipated or being left out of a person’s Will entirely.

For anyone finding themselves in this unfortunate and distressing situation, what options are open to them?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 permits specified people to make a court application if they believe that reasonable financial provision has not been made for them in the deceased’s Will. Such applications can be made even if no Will has been left if the result of intestacy rules would mean that the claimant did not receive reasonable financial provision.

Those entitled to make a claim under the Act are:

  • the spouse or civil partner of the deceased
  • the former spouse or civil partner, provided that person has not remarried or entered into a subsequent civil partnership
  • a child of the deceased person
  • any person who is treated as a child of the family by the deceased person. This includes children from former relationships
  • any other person who immediately prior to the death of the deceased person was being wholly or partly maintained by the deceased person.

Although the Court has wide powers to alter the distribution of an estate, they will assess the overall circumstances of the case, rather than solely focusing on the requirements of the claimant, in determining what is “reasonable financial provision”.  In practice, this means that the Court will consider whether reasonable financial provision has been made relative to the financial positions of the beneficiaries involved and the size and nature of the net estate (among other factors).

This is probably best illustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Ilott v Mitson 2017, whereby the claimant was successful despite her estrangement from her mother. The Court found in the claimant’s favour because no provision had been made for her but money had been left to charities instead.

If you happen to find yourself in this situation or are facing a claim, please contact us.