Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act claims

Claims against Wills are on the rise, with an increase of almost 40% made in 2016 under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, according to figures published by the Royal Courts of Justice.

Many of these challenges arise from re-marriage, where children or spouses from different relationships challenge a decision that they feel is unfair.

Regardless of the opinions of potential beneficiaries, under English law an individual can leave their assets to whoever they like. However, if a spouse, child, cohabitee or other dependant can show they have not been left adequate financial provision under the Will of a deceased person, a claim can be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The terms of the Act can also be used to make a claim when there is no Will.  Here, intestacy laws come into play, which determine how the estates of those who die without having made valid Wills are distributed.  As these are not reflective of modern relationships, cohabitees or civil partners will find themselves excluded and a claim may be the only option available.

Where a claim is made under the Act, the Court can exercise discretion and award reasonable financial provision out of the deceased’s estate, whether there is a valid Will in existence or not.

Will disputes can often stir strong emotions and foment a sense of injustice but each case is judged on the facts. Therefore, claims must be credible and based on reliable evidence in order to be successful.

Time conditions must also be met. Any claim for financial provision under the Act must be made within six months from the date that probate is granted, which is generally three to six months from the date of death. For a cohabitee to claim, they must be able to prove they lived as husband and wife for at least two years before their partner died.

To help prevent the possibility of inheritance claims, estate planning involves having properly drafted and executed Wills which are kept up to date. It may also be worth sharing your plans with your extended family. A difficult conversation now may potentially forestall any later disputes.