Inheritance Act Claims

Have you been left out of a Will? Or not been given as much money as you need? Are you dealing with an Estate and need to defend an Inheritance Act Claim?

The numbers of claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 have continued to grow in recent years.

So, who has the right to bring an Inheritance Act Claim and how does a Court decide how much to award?

Does the Inheritance Act give courts the power to re-write a Will?

Not quite. However, the Inheritance Act means that the courts can change the way an Estate is shared out if a Will does not make “reasonable financial provision” for certain people (see below).

What about if the person who died didn’t leave a Will?

If a person dies without leaving a Will, their Estate is shared out according to the Rules of Intestacy. These rules are very strict and mean that only married or civil partners and close relatives inherit.

Important – the surviving partner of someone who has died (where they were not married or in registered civil partnership) is not entitled to receive anything from the Estate under the Rules of Intestacy.

Here’s an example:

If the person who died had a partner and one child from another relationship, then that child inherits everything and the partner is left with nothing.

The Inheritance Act is critical in this scenario because the partner might be able to bring a claim so that s/he receives a fair share of the Estate.

Who can bring an Inheritance Act Claim?

The Inheritance Act contains a list of people who might be entitled to “reasonable financial provision”. These people are:

  • the husband, wife or civil partner of the person who has died
  • someone who lived with the person who has died as husband or wife (i.e. a cohabitee) for 2 years continuously before s/he died
  • a former husband, wife or civil partner (as long as s/he has not re-married or entered into a new civil partnership)
  • a child (including adult children)
  • someone who the person who has died treated as their child (this usually means a step child)• someone who was financially dependent on the person who has died

What is “reasonable financial provision”?

This varies, depending on the person who brings the Inheritance Act claim.

If it is the husband, wife or civil partner, it means whatever is “reasonable in all the circumstances of the case”. NB – This also applies to claims by an ex-husband, ex-wife or ex-civil partner where there was no financial settlement when they separated, divorced or their civil partnership was dissolved.

If it is anyone else, it is not as generous and means whatever the person needs for their maintenance.

How does the Court decide Inheritance Act claims?

The Inheritance Act says that Courts can take a number of factors into account, including:

  • the financial resources and needs of the person who is bringing the claim
  • the financial resources and needs of any beneficiary under the Estate, i.e. anyone who inherits under the Will or the rules of intestacy
  • the size of the Estate
  • if the person who is bringing the claim or any beneficiary has disabilities

However, the Inheritance Act also says that the Court can take into account “any other matter” including the conduct & behaviour of any person (including the person who is bringing the claim).

Is there a time limit for starting an Inheritance Act Claim?

A claim under the Inheritance Act must be started at Court within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate in the Estate is issued. However, Section 4 of the Inheritance Act says that the Court can allow a late claim in exceptional circumstances.

6 months might sound like quite a long time. However, it is much shorter than most legal time limits and so it is really important that you take proper legal advice as soon as possible.

How can we help?

EMG’s Disputes & Litigation team can help with all types of disputes about Wills & Estates, including Inheritance Act Claims. Click here for more information about the other types of disputes about Wills & Estates that we can help with.

We’re here to help.

To enquire or book an appointment, please contact your nearest office or email us at [email protected] and we will be in touch.