Inheritance Act Claims

A Guide to Inheritance Act Claims

Our Inheritance Act Claims solicitors are here to help ensure that your rights are protected and you receive the inheritance you are entitled to.

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If you have been cut out of a will, or the absence of a will has left you without access to the right financial support, you may think about making an Inheritance Act Claim (also know as a 1975 Act Claim).

Table of Contents

What is an Inheritance Act claim?

A claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) is a legal action that you can take against an estate if you believe that you have been left without adequate financial provision when someone dies.

If your claim is successful, the Court will change the way the estate is distributed to give you a reasonable amount of inheritance. This may be the payment of a lump sum of money, regular payments for living expenses, the transfer of property to you, or another arrangement.

Who can make an Inheritance Act claim?

The following people may be eligible to make an Inheritance Act claim:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased
  • A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or formed a new civil partnership since the death
  • A cohabiting partner who lived with the deceased as “husband and wife” or the same-sex equivalent for at least two years before the death
  • A child or someone who was treated as a child of the deceased, including adult children
  • People who were financially dependent on the deceased person immediately before the death

What are the grounds for making a claim under the Inheritance Act?

You need to prove that the will (or intestacy if there is no will) did not make “reasonable financial provision” for you. This phrase is important. It means you must show that:

  • The deceased had some kind of responsibility to help with your future living costs. For example, if you separated from the deceased some time ago and already are financially independent, it might not be reasonable to expect the estate to pay you anything.
  • Reasonable’ financial provision has not been made. Generally, this means the amount you need for maintenance, not to live in the lap of luxury.

The Inheritance Act will not help beneficiaries who simply feel that the will is unfair, or were expecting to receive a larger share of the assets.

What will the court take into account in an Inheritance Act claim?

The Court will take several factors into account when assessing your claim. These include:

  • The responsibility the deceased had towards you and the other beneficiaries
  • Your financial resources
  • Your financial needs, such as any current debts, housing requirements and income needs
  • Any physical or mental disability you may have
  • The financial needs and resources of other beneficiaries
  • The size of the estate

If you are claiming as a spouse or civil partner, the court will also consider your age, the length of the marriage and the financial or emotional contributions you made to the family. As a rule of thumb, the court will determine what financial settlement you would have received had you divorced or dissolved your partnership on the date of death, and award you that amount.

The Court has a lot of discretion in Inheritance Act claims. This means they can look at all the evidence, such as the deceased’s wishes or your conduct, before making an award. If the deceased wrote a letter explaining why they left you out of their will, for example, then the court will consider this when making its decision.

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may also provide insights into the wishes of the deceased.

What is the time limit to make an Inheritance Act claim?

You must make a claim within 6 months from the date of issue of the grant of probate. It is important to act quickly if you think you have a claim, as it is not possible to apply after this time limit.

How much does it cost to make an Inheritance Act claim?

Making a claim under the Inheritance Act can be expensive and time-consuming. You will need to use a solicitor, who will charge for their services. These can mount up if the case is contested and requires a Court hearing.

Often, it’s possible to resolve an Inheritance Act claim via mediation, where you and the executors of the estate negotiate a settlement without a Court hearing. This can save money, and it’s also often the faster option.

Can cohabiting partners claim under the Inheritance Act?

Cohabiting partners may claim under the Inheritance Act if they were living with the deceased “as husband and wife” for at least two full years before their death.

The Court will look at the facts of each case to decide whether the relationship was close enough to justify a claim. For example, they have allowed claims where the cohabiting couple lived part of the week in separate households.

Can a former spouse who has divorced make an Inheritance Act claim?

Yes, it is possible for a former spouse to make an Inheritance Act claim as long as they have not remarried. These claims tend to be brought when ongoing spousal maintenance is part of the divorce settlement.

However, the Court will consider the circumstances of the financial settlement in divorce when assessing any claim. Financial Orders made during a divorce often include a restriction that prevents ex-spouses from making further claims against the other’s estate. If the restriction has been worded properly, this generally will prevent an ex-spouse from making a claim under the Inheritance Act.

At Osbornes Law, our specialist solicitors can offer you practical advice on Inheritance Act claims. We will guide you through every step of the process, taking into account your best interests while remaining sensitive to the emotions at play. Get in touch to find out more.

Inheritance Act Claim FAQs

How long after death can an inheritance act claim be made?

In the judgment of the case of Thakare v Bhusate [2020] EWHC 52 (Ch) handed down recently, the High Court upheld a widow’s right to bring a claim against her husband’s estate more than 26 years after the grant of probate was issued. It is a new landmark in the length of time Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claims can be brought after death.

Mrs Bhustate was granted permission by Chief Master Marsh to bring a claim out of time (nearly 25 years after the date of the grant of probate), partly on the basis of her acrimonious relationship with her stepchildren which had obstructed the house sale.

Mr and Mrs Bhustate married in India in 1979. Mr Bhustate (61) was twice previously married with five children and Mrs Bhustate (28)  spoke little English. The couple lived in London and had one child before the husband died intestate in 1990. Their marital home failed to sell with Mrs Bhustate continuing to live there with her son.

The stepchildren appealed against the court’s decision to permit the ‘out of time’ claim to be brought, arguing reasonable financial provision had already been made for their stepmother at the time their father died. They claimed it was her own ‘fault’ that she lost the entitlement to bring a claim.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Edwin Johnston QC concluded it was inappropriate to interfere with the Chief Master’s decision. He also stated that the ‘administration of the estate was left in limbo’ as a result of a lack of cooperation from the stepchildren.

It is encouraging that the High Court has upheld the widow’s rights in this case and thereby ensured that justice was not thwarted by conduct.

What is a 1975 Act Claim?

A 1975 Act Claim is the same as an Inheritance Act Claim. The name refers to a claim made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Contact Us About An Inheritance Act Claim

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