When people make their Will, they more often than not make specific provision for people who are dependant on them financially in order to ensure they will be taken care of after their death. Occasionally, though, omissions are made in Wills, so if you are a dependant of the deceased but no provision has been made for you, you may have grounds for making a claim against the estate.
There is a provision under the Inheritance Act of 1975 that permits any financial dependants omitted from the Will to claim against the estate of the deceased.
The Act confirms that the people who can make an inheritance claim in respect of financial dependency on the estate of the deceased:
- Their surviving spouse
- A person who lived with them for at least two years as a co-habitee
- Children, whether they were natural children of the deceased, adopted or stepchildren
- Anyone else financially dependant on the deceased, such as elderly relatives, or anyone who received regular maintenance from them
Anyone who makes a claim on the estate must have proof of their inheritance claim. If a case goes to court and the estate is worth less than £30,000, then it will be heard by the county court. If the estate is worth over £30,000, then it will be heard in either the Family Division or Chancery Division of the High Court. If successful, then the money will generally be paid in the form of a maintenance allowance rather than a lump sum as with most other inheritances.
Inheritance Act Claims – What will the Court look at?
When disputing a Will as a financial dependant, the court considers several factors when making their decision about the eligibility of your inheritance claim:
- The size of the estate
- The needs and resources of the claimant
- The needs and resources of the other beneficiaries
- The responsibilities that the deceased person had to the claimant
- Any disabilities experienced by the claimants
- The financial status of any fellow claimants
This allows the Court to make a fairly judged decision as to whether the provisions made in the Will are reasonable. If they are not determined to be reasonable then the Court is able to direct exactly what should be done with the estate of the deceased. It is important that you act quickly if you do intend to a claim as there is a strict time limit in which to make such claims.
These types of claims must be made within 6 monthsfrom the date of the grant of probate. The Court does have power to permit claims after this time limit has expired but this would only be in exceptional circumstances.
Finally, don’t forget this is a complex area of law. If you are thinking of making a claim, please contact one of our Litigation Lawyers.