An Introduction to Inheritance Act Claims
Purpose Of The Inheritance Act
The purpose of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act) is to allow certain classes of individuals to make a claim against an estate if the will or the intestacy did not make reasonable financial provision for them.
The Act is not designed to allow claims against the estate simply because someone is unhappy with the value of the inheritance or the fact that they have not inherited at all. The claimant must be able to demonstrate that they require reasonable financial provision.
While the Claimant is expected to set out what they believe is a reasonable financial provision, it is ultimately a matter for the court to determine.
Who Can Make A Claim Under The Inheritance Act?
The Inheritance Act confirms the following as potential claimants:-
1. A spouse or civil partner;
2. A former spouse or civil partner so long as they have not remarried or entered a new civil partnership;
3. A person living with the deceased as though they were the spouse or civil partner of the deceased for a period of at least 2 years, ending on the death of the deceased;
4. A child of the deceased;
5. Any person treated as a child of the deceased;
6. Any person not falling into one of the other categories who was being maintained by the deceased.
As you can see, the class of potential claimants is wide. As the nature of a family continues to develop, the value of estates increases and children remain reliant on their parents and grandparents for financial support, it is likely that more claims will be issued.
What Can I Claim?
The Act separates a spouse or civil partner from all other categories of potential claimants.
For all claimants who were not a spouse or civil partner, the standard is such financial provision as it would be reasonable in all circumstances for the applicant to receive their maintenance.
The key consideration for the court is what is required for the claimant’s maintenance. The court’s powers under the Act are incredibly wide and it can make a number of orders including a capital payment, a payment of income or a sum to be put on trust. The trial judge will have to balance all of the individual factors of the particular case before deciding what is appropriate in that case. For this reason, guidance on a likely award is a difficult task; they are extremely fact specific.
Maintenance will require the court to consider the current lifestyle and needs of the claimant as well as the other beneficiaries of the estate. The court will look to make the minimum award necessary to ensure the claimant’s needs are satisfied. It is, for this reason, certain categories of claimants, such as adult children, might find it harder to bring a claim than a child under the age of 18.
A spouse/civil partner’s claim is not limited to maintenance. Instead, they are entitled to claim for a provision based on what it is reasonable for them to receive. The Act creates what is commonly referred to as the ‘divorce cross check’. When considering what awareness to make, the court will ask itself what the Claimant would have received if the parties divorced rather than the deceased dying.
Claims are not limited by this cross-check, it is only to be used as a guide. As with all claims under the Act, the court will need to consider a number of factors set out in the Act, and make a decision based on the needs of all relevant parties
Claims under the Act are not easy to navigate.
As this blog explains, the rules are complex and there are a number of different factors to consider, depending on the nature of the claimant. In addition, potential claimants only have 6 months from the date of the grant of probate to issue their claim in the court.
This short deadline and the requirement to comply with the court’s pre-action protocols mean that taking legal advice as early as possible is essential.