When people make their last will and testament, they more often than not make specific provision for any people who are dependant on them financially in order to ensure they’ll be taken care of after their death. Occasionally, though, omissions are made in wills, so if you are a dependant of the deceased but not provision has been made for you, you may have grounds for contesting a will or a contested probate claim.
There is a provision under the Inheritance Act of 1975 that allows any financial dependants omitted from the will to claim against the estate of the deceased by making an inheritance claim. 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.
The same Act details 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 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 as contesting a will is extremely difficult without it. 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.
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 of the will
- 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 exactly what should be done with the estate of the deceased. It’s important that you act quickly if you do intend to get involved in a will challenge – if you are granted a caveat during which to contest it, then you must do so within six months or else the estate will be distributed according to the will left by the deceased.
Finally, don’t forget this is a complex area of law. If you’re thinking of contesting probate, make sure you appoint specialist inheritance lawyers.