Claims under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (Act) are often referred to simply as ‘Inheritance Act claims’. It is no surprise that there has been a significant increase in claims made under the Act since its inception, given that modern society has a growing and aging population that has moved away from traditional family structures.
What is a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975?
A claim is referred to within the Act as an application for financial provision from a deceased’s estate. Essentially, a claim can arise where a person that falls into a specific category (see below) feels that reasonable financial provision has not been made for them from the estate of the deceased whether the estate is dealt with by a will or by intestacy (where there is no will).
Who can claim under the Inheritance Act?
There are specific categories that a person must fall into to be able to make a claim amd these are found in s.1 of the Act. These are:
The spouse or civil partner of the deceased
A former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (but not if they have remarried or entered into a subsequent civil partnership)
A child of the deceased (regardless of age)
A step-child or someone that was treated as a child of the deceased’s family
Any person who immediately before the deceased passed away was being maintained by the deceased (e.g. someone financially dependent on the deceased)
Any person that was living in the same household as the deceased as husband or wife or as civil partners in the two years ending immediately upon the death of the deceased
Can I claim under the Inheritance Act?
If a person falls into one of the categories mentioned above then they have a right to bring a claim, whether that claim will be successful will depend on a number of factors and the Act identifies some of the matters that a court will have regard to in the event a claim is made. The court will assess whether reasonable financial provision should be made, considering:
The financial resources and financial needs of the person bringing a claim or financial needs that they are likely to have in the future
The financial resources and financial needs of any other person bringing a claim and their future needs
The financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate has or is likely to have in the future
Any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had towards any person bringing a claim or towards any beneficiary of the estate
The size and nature of the deceased’s estate
Any physical or mental disability of any person bringing a claim or any disability of a beneficiary of the estate
Any other matter, including the conduct of the person bringing a claim, or any other person, which the court considers relevant
What are the time limits for a claim under the Inheritance Act?
If you think you have a claim you should act quickly. A claim must be issued at the court no later than 6 months after the grant of probate. It is possible to get a claim in after this deadline but the court’s permission will be required.
Does an Inheritance Act claim have to go to court?
Claims under the Act often settle and early resolution is encouraged. Mediation in Inheritance Act claims is often a popular and effective method of resolving a dispute.
Based on the above, I think I have a claim. What next?
At Bennett Oakley we would be happy to assist in exploring any claim that you may have with you. We can offer a variety of funding arrangements based on your specific case and we would be happy to discuss these with you. Please contact us for an initial, no obligation discussion. Given the time frames outlined above, if you think you have a claim, we would strongly recommend seeking legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.