Inheritance Act claims have steadily been increasing over recent years. It is now more common to see families made up of second marriages, stepchildren, carers, or cohabiting partners.
Consequently, this can lead to misunderstandings over inheritance rights or disputes between beneficiaries. In this post, we look at some of the most frequently asked questions about The Inheritance Act and how a claim is made.
What is the Inheritance Act 1975?
The purpose of the Inheritance (Provision for Family &Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”) is to allow for a court toalter the distribution of the estate of a deceased person to any spouse, former spouse, child, child of the family or dependant of that person under circumstances where the deceased person’s Will or the rules of intestacy fail to make ‘reasonable financial provision’.
In England and Wales, there are no forced heirship laws, which means you are entitled to leave your estate to whomever or whatever (including pets and charities) you wish by making a Last Will and Testament. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, there is also no such thing as a “common law” husband or wife. So, if you are not married and have not made a Will, your estate will pass following the Intestacy Rules, which do not cover unmarried couples, regardless of whether you have children with your partner or the length of time you have lived together. However, under ‘The 1975 Act’, a claim can be made if ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made either because:
- there is no will, and the Intestacy Rules apply; or
- there is a will, but someone has been left out.
Who can make an Inheritance Act claim?
Depending on your relationship with the deceased and your financial circumstances, you may be eligible to claim under the Inheritance Act. The Act clearly defines who can claim. It includes:
- Spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- A former spouse or civil partner of deceased
- A person who was living with the deceased for the two years before the death
- A child of the deceased
- A person who was treated as a child of the family by the deceased
- Any other person being maintained* (wholly or partly) by the deceased immediately before death.
*A person being maintained by the deceased is someone who was financially supported by the deceased in some way during their lifetime andcontinued until the death.
If you believe the Will has not reflected a promise made by the deceased before their death (such as a promise to transfer land or property) and you relied on this promise, you may have a proprietary estoppel claim. Our experienced lawyers can help you assess your claim and advise you on your rights to make a claim and under which circumstances.
Are there time limits for an Inheritance Act Claim?
Yes, usually, you must bring a claim under the Inheritance
Act within six months of the date of grant of probate. You can search online to
see whether or not a grant has been issued.
Therefore, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible if
you are considering a claim under the Inheritance Act. Under certain
circumstances, you can bring a claim after the six months has expired, but the
court will need to grant you permission to do so.
If you want to make an Inheritance Act Claim, even if you
think you are already out of time, please get in touch with our contentious
probate claims team, who can guide you through the process and advise you on
making a claim.
What is ‘reasonable financial provision’?
When deciding whether ‘reasonable financial provision’ has
been made under a Will or Intestacy, and if not, what order it should make for
financial provision from an estate, there are a few factors that they will
consider. These factors are known as the ‘section 3 factors’ and include:
- Any financial needs and resources of the applicant, both at
the time of the application and in the foreseeable future.
- Any financial needs and resources of any other applicant,
both at the time of the application and in the foreseeable future.
- Any financial needs and resources of any beneficiary of the
Will, both at the time of the application and in the foreseeable future.
- The size of the estate.
- The nature of the estate.
- Any physical or mental disabilities of any of the applicants
- Any other conduct.
Courts will also consider several other factors, including
the category into which the applicant falls. For example, when a spouse or
civil partner makes a claim, the court will consider the applicant’s age, the
duration of the marriage / civil partnership and the contribution made by the
applicant to the welfare of the family. The ‘deemed divorce’ test will also
apply when the court considers what the applicant would have received if the
marriage had ended in divorce rather than on the death of one of the
Do Inheritance Act Claims go to court?
Not all Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants)
Act 1975 cases go to court. Often, you can resolve matters through alternative
dispute resolution methods such as negotiation or mediation. At Jackson Longe
Solicitors, our specialist dispute resolution team will aim to resolve your
dispute without going to court, finding an amicable resolution wherever
possible. However, our experienced litigation team is on hand to guide you
through the court process where needed.
Inheritance Act Solicitors Richmond
At Jackson Longe Solicitors, we understand that claiming under the Inheritance Act 1975 can be confusing at an already emotional time. Our team of highly experienced Inheritance Solicitors in Richmond, London, can help you. Whether you are making an inheritance claim or defending one, we will guide you through the process, helping you every step of the way. Even if you think you might be out of the deadline time mentioned above, we can help with your claim today.