Making an Inheritance Act claim
Inheritance Act claims are on the increase, with growing numbers of people claiming financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The Act allows a deceased person’s estate to be given to people who can establish an entitlement to financial provision. Importantly, the terms of the deceased’s will (or the intestacy rules if they didn’t leave a will) can be overridden. Those who can claim under the Inheritance Act are spouses and former spouses, civil partners, children, cohabitees and anyone who was financially dependant.
Inheritance Act claims involve a great deal of legal complexity so it is important that you seek legal advice from a true specialist.
We have a team of lawyers who only deal with inheritance law. They are true experts and know exactly what it takes to win an Inheritance Act case. They are often able to work on a No Win, No Fee basis and are always happy to consider the best way to fund a case.
A recent Inheritance Act case that has hit the headlines demonstrates how the courts are approaching claims made by adult children who have been excluded from their parent’s will.
The case in question involved a mother (Melita) and daughter (Heather) who had been at logger-heads on and off for many years. Following their final disagreement over the name Heather chose for her fifth child, Melita wrote Heather out of her will completely and bequeathed her estate (amounting to £486,000) to three animal charities (The Blue Cross, RSPB and the RSPCA).
Following Melita’s death in 2004, Heather brought an Inheritance Act claim against her mother’s estate as a ‘child of the deceased’ who had not received ‘reasonable financial provision’ from the estate.
Despite the fact that Melita’s will was accompanied by a letter of wishes explaining why she had excluded Heather from her estate (albeit the reason provided related to an earlier dispute), the Court ruled in Heather’s favour in 2007. It found that reasonable financial provision had not been made for Heather from her mother’s estate and awarded her £50,000.
However, Heather appealed the decision to the High Court on the basis that £50,000 was an insufficient sum to meet her needs. But instead of increasing the award to Heather the High Court ruled in favour of the charities’ cross appeal and awarded Heather nothing.
Heather has now appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal, arguing that she was in need of the money as, at 50 years of age, she has no earning capacity, no pension and 5 children between the ages of 14 and 27. The charities argue that granting the appeal would undermine a testator’s freedom to leave their assets to whoever they wish in a will.
This Inheritance Act claim case highlights the importance of ensuring that your will is not irrational or unreasonable in excluding family members, particularly where they are financially vulnerable. It is also a stark reminder to people making Inheritance Act claims under the 1975 Act that they should not have unrealistic expectations of financial provision, especially as the ultimate result may be that the estate is diminished so significantly in legal costs that there is very little left in the pot to claim against.
We specialise in Inheritance Act claims and operate a dedicated website where you can find more information about contesting wills.
If you think that you may have an inheritance claim then give one of our specialist inheritance lawyers a call on 0333 888 0404 or contact us by email at [email protected]. We deal with Inheritance Act claims on a national basis and are often able to undertake cases on a No Win – No Fee basis.