Facing an Inheritance Act claim

Julian cole portrait.

Julian Cole

Senior Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411

Email jcole@bsandi.co.uk

The complete terms of a person’s will are not usually discovered until after their death. While these are often as anticipated, family members are occasionally taken by surprise. Those who had expected to inherit may feel disappointed or hard done by; they don’t understand why they have been left less, or why others got to benefit instead of them. In some situations, they may decide to bring a legal challenge under the Inheritance Act.

The basis of this type of claim is that the person bringing it was dependent on the person who died, and has not been sufficiently provided for. A successful claim can lead to the distribution of assets being changed to cater for the dependent’s needs. This means altering the terms of the Will. It also means that people who had stood to benefit in specified ways may lose out.

Only certain people can bring an Inheritance Act claim:

-          The deceased’s spouse or civil partner

-          The deceased’s former spouse or civil partner, as long as that person didn’t remarry or enter into a new civil partnership

-          The deceased’s child

-          A person who the deceased treated as a child of the family (stepchild, for example)

-          A person who, immediately before the deceased died, was being maintained by him or her

-          A person who, for two years immediately before the deceased died, was living with him or her as husband or wife, or civil partner (but not actually in a marriage or a civil partnership).

Alongside limitation (claims must be brought within six months of the grant of probate), this list is the first reference point for a beneficiary or the executor of a Will who becomes notified that a claim has been, or may be, made. If the claimant qualifies, the process of deciding how to deal with the claim can begin. This takes specialist knowledge, in order to help executors fulfil their responsibilities and to help beneficiaries protect their positions. It’s the reason we encourage people and families to get early legal advice and, wherever possible, to try to resolve the issues through alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.

If you are concerned that you might face an Inheritance Act claim, or you need advice in relation to one that has been brought, contact us on 01264 353411 or email info@bsandi.co.uk. We’ll be able to help you handle it in the best possible way.

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