The death of a loved one is a difficult time, but emotions can run high when the deceased’s will (or lack thereof) doesn’t reflect what some believe is fair distribution of their estate. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, often called the Inheritance Act, exists to offer certain individuals a legal recourse in such situations.

This article explains Inheritance Act claims, who can make them, timeframes in which claims should be brought, and how Clodes Solicitors can assist with navigating this complex legal process.

What is an Inheritance Act Claim?

An Inheritance Act claim allows eligible individuals to challenge the distribution of a deceased person’s estate (assets) if they believe they haven’t received “reasonable financial provision” under the will or intestacy rules (when there’s no will). The court has the power to adjust the distribution to ensure a fairer outcome.

Inheritance Act claims exist to ensure financial dependants of the deceased are reasonably supported. A Court will need to be satisfied the claimant is eligible to make a claim and has not been made reasonable financial provision in the circumstance. The Court will take into account the needs of beneficiaries and any other dependants.

The Court can award Claimants substantial funds for living expenses, education and treatment they can also be awarded an interest in a House for their life or a specified period. The Act treats spouses more generously. This means spouses are more likely to receive awards that enable a comfortable standard of living, not just basic needs.

The court still determines what’s “reasonable” based on the situation, but spouses generally have a stronger claim for a level of financial security that reflects their previous lifestyle with the deceased.

Who Can Make an Inheritance Act Claim?

Not everyone can bring an Inheritance Act claim. Here are those eligible:

  • Spouses or Civil Partners: Current or former spouses/civil partners (provided they haven’t remarried) might have a claim if not adequately provided for.
  • Children: This includes biological, adopted, stepchildren, or anyone treated as a child of the deceased. Financial dependence or a future need for maintenance can be grounds for a claim.
  • Dependants: Those financially reliant on the deceased at the time of their death, even if not related, may be eligible.

Time Limits for Inheritance Act Claims

There’s a strict timeframe for making an Inheritance Act claim. Generally, you have six months from the date the Grant of Representation (legal document allowing access to the estate) is issued. Missing this deadline can significantly weaken your claim.

Can I Make a Claim Out of Time?

In some circumstances, a claim can be made outside the six-month window, but you’ll need permission from the court. The court will consider the reason for the delay and whether it’s reasonable. For example, a lengthy illness or lack of legal knowledge might be considered a valid excuse. However, a deliberate decision to delay the claim will likely be viewed negatively.

Additional Factors Considered by the Court

The court will also consider other factors when deciding whether to allow an out-of-time claim, including:

  • Strength of the Claim: Does the claimant have a strong case for needing reasonable financial provision?
  • Distribution of the Estate: Has the estate already been distributed? If so, can the court’s decision be implemented fairly?
  • Prejudice to Beneficiaries: Would allowing the claim cause hardship to existing beneficiaries who relied on receiving their inheritance?

How to Make an Inheritance Act Claim

The Inheritance Act claim process involves several steps:

  1. Seeking Legal Advice: A specialist solicitor experienced in Inheritance Act claims is crucial. They can assess your eligibility, gather evidence, and advise on the claim’s viability, including the possibility of making an out-of-time application.
  2. Mediation (Optional): Mediation can be a cost-effective way to reach a settlement before court proceedings if all parties are open to it.
  3. Issuing Court Proceedings: If mediation fails, your solicitor will initiate court proceedings and file the formal claim with supporting evidence.
  4. Court Hearings: The court will consider arguments from both sides and may order mediation again or proceed with a full hearing to determine a fair outcome.

Why Choose Clodes Solicitors for Inheritance Act Claims?

Inheritance Act claims can be emotionally charged and legally complex. Clodes Solicitors has a dedicated team with extensive experience in recovering substantial sums for claimants or securing housing for life.

Clodes Solicitors Provide:

  • Expert Legal Advice: We offer clear and strategic guidance throughout the claim process, ensuring you understand your options and potential outcomes, including the possibility of making an out-of-time claim.
  • Strong Negotiation Skills: Our solicitors are adept at negotiating settlements that are fair and in your best interests, potentially avoiding lengthy court proceedings.
  • Court Representation: If court action becomes necessary, our experienced barristers will represent you effectively, presenting your case persuasively to the judge.
  • Sensitivity and Understanding: We recognize the emotional nature of Inheritance Act claims and treat all clients with compassion and respect.

Settling or Defending Inheritance Act Claims:

Clodes Solicitors can act for either claimants seeking a fairer share of the estate or defendants named in the will who wish to uphold its provisions. We provide robust representation at each stage of the process.

Conclusion

Inheritance Act claims offer a legal avenue for those who feel financially disadvantaged by a will or intestacy.

If you believe you have a valid claim, it’s crucial to contact us today on 02920 75050 or email us at cloded@clodes-solicitors.com

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