I have been left out of a Will. What are my legal options?
Losing a loved one is always distressing, but being disinherited by being left out of their Will can make it even more upsetting. Everyone has the right to leave their property and assets — commonly referred to as their “estate” — to anyone they choose, but their wishes can be legally contested under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (commonly referred to as the “Inheritance Act” or the “1975 Act”).
Does it matter where the deceased lived?
The deceased’s place of domicile at the time of death has to be in England or Wales for the Inheritance Act to apply. This does not include Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, where different law applies.
However, the applicant can live anywhere in the world.
Who can make an Inheritance Act claim?
The people who are allowed to make an Inheritance Act claim for “reasonable financial provision” (subject to some restrictions) are:
- a husband or wife;
- a civil partner;
- a person who has lived in a relationship with the deceased for a least two years before they died;
- any child of the deceased (including adopted children);
- any person who the deceased treated as a child; and
- anyone else who relied on the deceased financially.
Inheritance claims can be made not only by someone who has been left out of a Will altogether, but also where financial provision under the Will is unsatisfactory, or where there is no Will and the intestacy rules fail to provide.
The phrase “reasonable financial provision” is used frequently in Inheritance Act cases. This is defined as, “Such financial assistance as it would be appropriate in all the circumstances of the case for the petitioner to receive for his upkeep”. Where reasonable financial provision has not been made and you fall into one or more of the above categories then you may have a claim on the estate.
How long do I have to make an Inheritance Act claim?
Normally, you have six months from the date of the grant of probate to start a claim in court. You should therefore get in touch with us right away if you’re thinking about making an inheritance claim.
What if the six-month deadline has passed?
It may still be possible to bring an Inheritance Act claim, but you will have to ask for the court’s permission to apply out of time. Because there is a risk that permission might be refused it is best to avoid this by acting quickly.
Will I have to go to court?
No, not always. We strive to settle disputes through alternative dispute resolution techniques like negotiation and mediation as much as possible, subject to the time limit for filing an action in court. Mediation is especially well suited to 1975 Act claims.
How we can help
Our contentious probate team at Slee Blackwell are experts in assisting clients who have been left out of a will. We have several flexible finance options including ‘no win, no fee’, and we will find a funding solution that works best for your situation. Give us a call on 0333 888 0404 for a free case assessment, or contact us by email at [email protected].