With growing media coverage of high-profile inheritance claims, you may have heard about the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, more commonly known as the Inheritance Act.

This allows certain categories of individuals to bring an inheritance claim if they have not been reasonably provided for by a loved one’s estate.

Who can bring a claim?

  • Spouses (husband/wife/civil partner)
  • Former spouses
  • Children (including adult and estranged children)
  • Individuals who have been treated as a child by the deceased
  • Cohabitees
  • Someone financially maintained by the deceased.

What is reasonable provision?

For a spouse, reasonable provision is broad and can be whatever is considered reasonable in all the circumstances.  For other categories, it’s what is reasonable for that individual’s maintenance needs.

What is the claim against?

The claim is made against the deceased’s “net estate”.  This is calculated by adding all the assets of the estate (e.g. property, bank accounts, investments etc.) and then taking away any debts (e.g. mortgages, credit cards, loans etc.).

Assets which fall outside of the estate, such as joint property, can also be included.

How are these claims assessed?

The Court considers a variety of factors, the core of which are:

  • The financial circumstances of the individual bringing the claim and the beneficiaries of the estate;
  • The size and nature of the estate;
  • The obligations and responsibilities the deceased had towards the individual bringing the claim and any beneficiary;
  • Any mental or physical disabilities of the parties; and
  • Any other relevant factors, such as the behaviour of the parties.

Is there a time limit?

An individual has 6 months to start Court proceedings from the date of a Grant of Representation, which is the document confirming the appointment of the Executors/Administrators.  It is often referred to as “getting Probate”.

However, if this time has already passed, it may be possible to ask the Court to authorise applying out of time, but this is not guaranteed.

Quick action is key whether or not the time limit has passed.

How are these claims resolved?

Very few claims require a final Court hearing.  The majority are resolved at mediation or through a negotiated settlement.  

How are these claims funded?

Claims can be funded privately or sometimes existing insurance is available.  In certain circumstances, if you seek advice from a Solicitor, it is possible for them to offer Conditional Fee Agreements (often known as “No Win No Fee”) and Deferred Payment options, where you pay your legal costs at a later date.

Where do I begin?

It is best to seek expert advice as soon as possible.  Whether you think you wish to bring a claim or a claim is being made against an estate you’re involved with, we can help you.

For further information or to make an appointment, please email cp@wbw.co.uk or call 01626 202384 and you will be put in touch with a member of the Inheritance Disputes team. WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Exeter, Torquay, Paignton, Bovey Tracey, Launceston, Honiton, Exmouth and Sidmouth.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.