Organising the material elements of a loved one’s life after they have passed is an understandably upsetting time. With emotions running high, estate distribution can often become a source of conflict between family members.
From those who have been left out of a Will entirely, individuals who receive less than they were expecting or promised, or where the deceased has passed away without making a Will, record numbers of inheritance disputes are now going through the courts, as modern family structures and rising house prices push more people to contest unfavourable outcomes with regards to their inheritance, or lack thereof.
Over the years there has been a steady increase in these cases; particularly as high profile cases continue to hit the headlines and encourage people to make such claims, such as that of Ilott v Mitson, where an estranged adult daughter successfully battled her mother’s decision to leave money to animal charities
How do I make a claim?
If you have been left out of a friend or family member’s Will, or if you do not think you have been left enough, then you may be able to make a claim against the Estate for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. However, it is important to note that there are certain relationship criteria and timeframes which you must adhere to in order to be entitled to make a claim.
Who can bring a claim?
The former spouse/civil partner of the deceased who has not remarried or entered a subsequent civil partnership (in certain limited circumstances)
A child of the deceased or a child treated as a child of the family by the Deceased (including adult children)
Any person who cohabited with the deceased person for a continuous period of two or more years immediately prior to their death
Anyone who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained wholly or in part by the deceased.
What factors might the Court look at when considering a claim?
Your own financial resources and needs – if the person pursuing a claim is in a poor financial situation, then this can support a stronger claim. Likewise, if the beneficiaries of the Estate are in a strong financial position already, their defence to any claim is likely to be weaker.
The size and nature of deceased’s estate – generally speaking, the larger the estate, the more unreasonable it may seem that you have been excluded.
Any obligations and responsibilities the deceased owed – if the deceased owed a duty to look after you/any other beneficiaries then this can influence a claim
Financial provision for physical or mental disabilities of any applicant or beneficiary
The time limit for making a claim under the 1975 Act is very short – 6 months after the grant of probate is taken out. Therefore if you believe you may have a claim it is important to seek legal advice sooner rather than later.
Take legal advice
Regardless of your situation, whether you’re looking to contest a will or are dealing with a contested will, inheritance act claims are a complex area of the law and it is essential that you consult a solicitor with experience in this area. Call Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.