Contentious Probate & Trusts

Inheritance Act Claims

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If a deceased’s will excludes certain people or does not leave them enough to meet their needs, they may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975. A successful claim can result in the distribution of the estate being changed so that (as far as possible) everyone gets the financial support they need.

Who can claim under the Inheritance Act 1975?

Anyone who falls into one of the following categories potentially can claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ if they consider that the deceased’s estate does not provide adequately for them:

– Spouse or civil partner of the deceased
– A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried
– An unmarried partner who lived with the deceased for at least two years before the death
– Child or someone who was treated as a child by the deceased
– Financial dependent of the deceased

What is reasonable financial provision?

What amounts to ‘reasonable financial provision’ will vary according to the specific circumstances of the claim. The court is required to consider a range of factors such as:

– The financial needs and resources of the claimant and other beneficiaries / applicants
– Any physical or mental disability of the claimant and other beneficiaries/applicants
– Any obligations the deceased had towards the claimant or other beneficiaries/applicants
– The size of the estate
– Any other matter, including the conduct of the parties, the court considers relevant

As you can see, the tests applied by the court are deliberately vague. For anyone other than a spouse, reasonable financial provision means what is reasonable for “maintenance” – in other words, not so little the claimant lives in poverty and not so much they live in luxury at the expense of the other beneficiaries of the estate. What is reasonable boils down to a value judgement by the courts, which can make it difficult to predict the outcome of a case.

One example is the 2017 case of Illot v Mitson. Here, the Supreme Court overturned a decision of the Court of Appeal to award the deceased’s adult daughter £163,000 from an estate worth roughly £500,000, despite repeated verbal and written instructions from the deceased that her estranged daughter should not receive anything. The Supreme Court reinstated an earlier award of just £50,000.

The Supreme Court emphasised the importance of limiting awards to “maintenance,” meaning everyday expenses of living and not everything the claimant desires to have.

How long do Inheritance Act claims take?

It can take months or even years to resolve an Inheritance Act claim depending on the circumstances. Claims are generally resolved much faster if the parties can reach an amicable solution between themselves instead of going to court.

If you wish to bring an Inheritance Act claim, we recommend that you get your financial evidence and statement of needs in order at the outset. This will demonstrate your commitment to the claim and should encourage early settlement discussions.

For existing beneficiaries who wish to defend the estate against an Inheritance Act claim, a well-pitched offer may be the best way to protect the estate from the costs and risks of litigation. It will also be the quickest way to realise your inheritance. Our solicitors can help you in either scenario and will advise you of the best path forward.

How Collyer Bristow can help with Inheritance Act claims

If you think you may have a claim under the 1975 Act, you must act quickly. You only have six months from the date of the Grant of Probate to issue a claim, unless the court grants permission for a late claim.

We advise on Inheritance Act claims regularly and have secured lucrative settlements for spouses and children who were wholly or partially excluded from the deceased’s estate. Our team is here to help you understand your rights and guide you through the process of making or defending a claim. Contact us today for more information.

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Inheritance Act Claims

Inheritance Act Claims

If a deceased’s will excludes certain people or does not leave them enough to meet their needs, they may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975. A successful claim can result in the distribution of the estate being changed so that (as far as possible) everyone gets the financial support they need.

Who can claim under the Inheritance Act 1975?

Anyone who falls into one of the following categories potentially can claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ if they consider that the deceased’s estate does not provide adequately for them:

– Spouse or civil partner of the deceased
– A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried
– An unmarried partner who lived with the deceased for at least two years before the death
– Child or someone who was treated as a child by the deceased
– Financial dependent of the deceased

What is reasonable financial provision?

What amounts to ‘reasonable financial provision’ will vary according to the specific circumstances of the claim. The court is required to consider a range of factors such as:

– The financial needs and resources of the claimant and other beneficiaries / applicants
– Any physical or mental disability of the claimant and other beneficiaries/applicants
– Any obligations the deceased had towards the claimant or other beneficiaries/applicants
– The size of the estate
– Any other matter, including the conduct of the parties, the court considers relevant

As you can see, the tests applied by the court are deliberately vague. For anyone other than a spouse, reasonable financial provision means what is reasonable for “maintenance” – in other words, not so little the claimant lives in poverty and not so much they live in luxury at the expense of the other beneficiaries of the estate. What is reasonable boils down to a value judgement by the courts, which can make it difficult to predict the outcome of a case.

One example is the 2017 case of Illot v Mitson. Here, the Supreme Court overturned a decision of the Court of Appeal to award the deceased’s adult daughter £163,000 from an estate worth roughly £500,000, despite repeated verbal and written instructions from the deceased that her estranged daughter should not receive anything. The Supreme Court reinstated an earlier award of just £50,000.

The Supreme Court emphasised the importance of limiting awards to “maintenance,” meaning everyday expenses of living and not everything the claimant desires to have.

How long do Inheritance Act claims take?

It can take months or even years to resolve an Inheritance Act claim depending on the circumstances. Claims are generally resolved much faster if the parties can reach an amicable solution between themselves instead of going to court.

If you wish to bring an Inheritance Act claim, we recommend that you get your financial evidence and statement of needs in order at the outset. This will demonstrate your commitment to the claim and should encourage early settlement discussions.

For existing beneficiaries who wish to defend the estate against an Inheritance Act claim, a well-pitched offer may be the best way to protect the estate from the costs and risks of litigation. It will also be the quickest way to realise your inheritance. Our solicitors can help you in either scenario and will advise you of the best path forward.

How Collyer Bristow can help with Inheritance Act claims

If you think you may have a claim under the 1975 Act, you must act quickly. You only have six months from the date of the Grant of Probate to issue a claim, unless the court grants permission for a late claim.

We advise on Inheritance Act claims regularly and have secured lucrative settlements for spouses and children who were wholly or partially excluded from the deceased’s estate. Our team is here to help you understand your rights and guide you through the process of making or defending a claim. Contact us today for more information.

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