Dealing with the death of a loved one is an extremely distressing time, and can be made even more traumatic if there are disputes between those involved.
Having vast experience in dealing with family disputes I understand probate disputes can be complicated and stressful and I hope this articles provides some clarity about Inheritance Act Claims.
Claims for financial provision from an estate
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 (the “Inheritance Act”) governs the process regarding claims against an estate where ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made for certain categories of claimants, the standard of provision differs depending on the category of claimant i.e., spouses and civil partners of a deceased would attract a higher standard of financial provision.
This essentially means The Inheritance Act allows certain people to make a claim against the estate if they have not been reasonably financially provided for in the deceased’s Will.
The Inheritance Act allows the court to vary the distribution of the deceased estate for certain family members or dependents.
Eligibility criteria/who can bring a claim?
- The spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
- The former spouse or civil partner of the deceased, (providing they have not remarried or entered into another civil partnership).
- Cohabitees, i.e. any person who was living with the deceased for a minimum term of two years before they passed, as either husband and wife or civil partner.
- A child of the deceased (including adult children).
- Any person who was treated as a child by the deceased, usually, stepchildren.
- Any person who was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased, immediately before the death of the deceased (i.e. a financial dependant).
Time limit for bringing a claim!
A crucial point to note if you’re considering making a claim is that the claim must be filed within 6 months from the grant of probate, in specified circumstances however, this time frame may be increased.
The deceased must have been domiciled in England and Wales at the date of death.
Factors the Court must have regard to when deciding a claim
The judge will have discretion on deciding what provision to award, in determining the same, the Judge will have regard to the following key factors contained in section 3 (1) of the Inheritance Act 1975;
- the financial resources and financial needs which the applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- the financial resources and financial needs which any other applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- the financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any applicant or towards any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
- the size and nature of the net estate of the deceased;
- any physical or mental disability of any applicant or any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
- any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which in the circumstances of the case the Court may consider relevant.
Are Inheritance act claims expensive?
There is no straightforward answer to this as this is subjective to a potential claimant, key considerations are, proportionality, prospects of success, size and nature of an estate, and the number of competing beneficiaries.
Another key factor is the complexity of the issues in dispute and the finances of a claimant, most cases usually settle without proceeding to Trial and it is best for all the parties in the dispute to actively engage in negotiations at the earliest opportunity, provide timely disclosure of evidence, and agree upon the details regarding the distribution of the estate.
It is ultimately the willingness of the parties to the dispute to come to an agreement following the full consideration of evidence, otherwise, Court intervention becomes necessary.
The onus is upon the claimant(s) to prove their need for provision from the estate, if this can be fully evidenced at an early stage, the chances of a more timely and cost-effective settlement are increased, if however, parties are slow at providing full disclosure of evidence and are not willing to come to a compromise, the costs of litigation increase.
The costs regarding the initial considerations however can be very modest in comparison to those that could be incurred should a matter proceed to Trial.
If you would like to discuss your family dispute feel free to contact me to arrange a free, no obligation chat on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01273 284250.