Where a person is not left any money by a loved one after they pass away, either because the deceased died without making a will, or they simply left them out of any will, that person may still be entitled to make a claim against the deceased’s estate. This is known as an Inheritance Act claim.
What is an Inheritance Act claim?
Under the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the court can vary the distribution of the deceased’s estate so as to make financial provision for certain family members and dependants.
This includes where financial provision has already been made for a person under the terms of a written will or the rules of intestacy, but such provision is not sufficient to meet their needs in the foreseeable future.
The court has a wide discretion to redistribute the deceased’s assets, with the power to grant regular payments, a single lump sum or even the transfer of property to a successful applicant.
Who can bring an Inheritance Act claim?
Under the 1975 Act these types of claims are not necessarily limited to the deceased’s next of kin or dependant children. A person may be eligible to make a claim for financial provision where s/he is:
The deceased’s spouse or civil partner, or former spouse or civil partner, as long as s/he has not remarried or entered into a subsequent civil partnership
Any person cohabiting with the deceased for at least two years prior to their death
A child of the deceased, including adult children
Any person treated as a child by the deceased, including adopted or stepchildren
Any person who, immediately before the death of the deceased, was being maintained by them.
How will the court assess an Inheritance Act claim?
The court will make an order where it is satisfied that the disposition of the deceased’s estate effected by his/her will, or the law relating to intestacy, is not such so as to make reasonable financial provision for the applicant.
A spouse or civil partner will be entitled to such financial provision as is reasonable in all the circumstances, “whether or not that provision is required for his or her maintenance”.
Other family members or dependants will be entitled to such reasonable financial provision as is necessary for their maintenance, insofar as the estate can provide it.
Although more favourable financial provision is likely to be made for a spouse or civil partner, this should not dissuade other eligible family members from bringing an Inheritance Act claim.
When considering a claim, the court will have regard to a number of factors, including the following:
The financial resources and needs of any applicant(s)
The financial resources and needs of any beneficiary
Any obligations and responsibilities the deceased had towards the applicant(s) or any beneficiary
The size and nature of the deceased’s estate
Any physical or mental disability suffered by the applicant(s) or any beneficiary
Any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant(s), or any other person, that the court may consider relevant.
How do I make an Inheritance Act claim?
When making an Inheritance Act claim, expert legal advice should always be sought. The law can be complex and the time limits are strict. You have just six months from the date of the grant of representation or probate within which to issue proceedings.
Although, in exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to extend the time limit, any delay could be potentially fatal to a claim.