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Can you make Inheritance Act claims if the time limit has passed?

View profile for Laura Pracy
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Inheritance Act claims; can you claim if the time limit has passed? The short answer is yes; at the Courts discretion.

The six month limitation on Inheritance Act claims has been subject of debate in many cases. Recently in the case of Mrs Shantabi Bhusate v Dr Mangala Patel and others [2019] EWHC 470 (Ch) permission was given by Chief Master Marsh for an Inheritance Act claim to be made 25 years past the limitation. The decision to allow the claim in this case is curious, especially in light of another recent case Cowan v Foreman and others [2019] EWHC 349 (Fam) where it was decided by Mr Justice Mostyn that a widow was not allowed to submit a claim only 17 months out of time.

Mr Justin Mostyn commented that The Court would look unfavourably on late applications if not supported by highly exceptional factors and stated that delays in claiming “should be measured in weeks, or at most a few months”.

In the case of Ms Cowan, where Probate was granted in December of 2016 and the application made in November 2018, the Judge believed that there were no exceptional factors even though Ms Cowan argued that she was not aware of the limitation and that she struggled to understand her husband’s Will. A private “stand-still” agreement was said to be made by both parties but the Judge was dubious of this and said that it was up to the court to decide if the time period need be extended.

In the case of Mrs Bhusate, whose husband died intestate in April 1990, the Judge gave permission for an Inheritance Act claim to be made over 25 years out of time.  Mrs Bhusate was given permission to proceed with her claim as her claim merits under the Inheritance Act were very strong, the delay in bringing the claim was explained and justified as she was unable to proceed with the sale of the house without the cooperation of her stepchildren. The defendants obstructed the sale of the property and then did not attempt to rectify it for 23 years and Mrs Bhusate was left with no benefits from her husband’s estate.

Cases like these cause confusion around the leniency of submitting claims out of the time limit on Inheritance Act claims. With one claim being accepted 25 years out of time and another being rejected just 17 months out of time it is hard to say what claims will be given permission to proceed.

However, our advice would be issue in them in time (if you can) to avoid the need to make an application out of time. You will then not have to rely on the discretion of The Court.

However, if you need advice about bringing an Inheritance Act claim or such a claim out of time please contact Laura Pracy, who is a solicitor who specialised in contentious probate cases.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.