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Inheritance Act FAQs
Can I make an Inheritance claim when I have not been provided for by a deceased relative?
When a person dies, their estate will be distributed either according to the terms of their will or, if there is no will, then under the Intestacy Rules. But what happens if there is no will or the will does not provide for you?
When a person makes a will they are entitled to leave their estate to whomever they wish. However, if 'reasonable financial provision' has not been made by the deceased either because:
- there is no will and the Intestacy Rules apply; or
- there is a will but someone has been left out,
then certain classes of individuals can apply to the court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 ('the Inheritance Act') for reasonable financial provision to be made from the deceased's estate.
The following Frequently Asked Questions explain more about making a claim under the Inheritance Act.
Who can claim under the Inheritance Act?
The classes of individuals who can make a claim for financial provision under the Inheritance Act include:
- a spouse or civil partner of the deceased;
- a former spouse or civil partner of the deceased who has not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership;
- co-habitants - where during the whole of the period of two years ending immediately before the date when the deceased died, the person was living (a) in the same household as the deceased and (b) as the husband or wife of the deceased;
- a child of the deceased (including adult children);
- a person treated as a child of the family; or
- dependants of the deceased.
To make an application under the Inheritance Act, the applicant must also show that the deceased was 'domiciled' in England or Wales. This broadly means that the deceased was permanently based in this jurisdiction.
How long have I got to make a claim?
The Inheritance Act requires an application to be made within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate*.
Therefore, we would always advise that you seek immediate legal advice to determine whether you are eligible to make a claim.
(*When someone dies, a family member or friend or the deceased's solicitor must apply for a Grant of Probate which gives the right to deal with the deceased's estate. Once the grant is obtained, the bank accounts, collection of assets, debts, tax liabilities and bequests can be dealt with.)
What will the court take into account when deciding whether to make financial provision?
The Inheritance Act gives guidelines for what the courts will take into account when considering a claim and in deciding if reasonable financial provision has been made. These include:
- the financial resources of the person making the claim;
- the deceased's moral obligations;
- the size and nature of the estate;
- any physical/mental disability suffered by the person making the claim; and
- anything else which may be relevant, for example, the conduct of the applicant and the executors of the estate.
For applicants, other than a spouse or partner, reasonable financial provision is limited to what it would be reasonable for them to receive for maintenance only.
A recent example of the courts' approach to Inheritance Act claims (Ilott -v- the Blue Cross)
The courts have had to consider these various factors earlier this year. The case of Ilott (Respondent) -v- The Blue Cross and others (Appellants)  UKSC 17 was an important case on whether a daughter could make a claim on her estranged mother's estate.
In 2002, Mrs Jackson, mother of Mrs Ilott, made a will which excluded her daughter entirely. Mrs Ilott had left home at the age of 17 and had been estranged from her mother for 26 years prior to her mother's death. Mrs Jackson died in 2004 leaving an estate worth approximately £500,000 which was to be divided between three charities.
Mrs Ilott lived in a rented housing association property with her five children. She was not working and was dependent on benefits. Mrs Ilott brought a claim under the Inheritance Act for reasonable financial provision as a child of the deceased.
At first instance the District Judge ruled that Ms Ilott was entitled to £50,000. On appeal, the Court of Appeal increased that sum to £143,000. The charities, concerned that this might pave the way for others to make similar claims (and reduce their income from bequests), appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided that the District Judge's award of £50,000 was correct in the circumstances of this case.
The Inheritance Act allows for children of the deceased bring a claim but any award is limited to what is reasonable for their "maintenance".
Key factors in the Ilott case
There were two key factors which the judge gave weight to in deciding whether to make an award in the Ilott case:
- the length of estrangement between mother and daughter and that Mrs Jackson's wishes were a factor; and
- the daughter's straitened circumstances and her reliance on benefits.
Why is the Ilott case important?
The Ilott case is an important decision for the following reasons:
The relatively small award (£50,000) compared to the mother's estate (£500,000), comforts those making a will that their wishes will be largely respected. Anyone making a will can choose what to leave to whom.
While the award to Ms Ilott was smaller than she had claimed, she did successfully establish a claim under the Inheritance Act – albeit that her recovery was smaller than she had hoped for.
How can we help?
Pearson Solicitors specialist Inheritance and Will Disputes Department can advise:
- those who wish to make a claim for financial provision
- beneficiaries; and
- those who wish to defend Inheritance Act claims
When you first contact us, we will give you guidance on whether you can make a claim and how much it might cost.
For more information contact Laura Pracy on 0161 785 7921 or make an online enquiry using the form and we will call you back.