When someone dies, their belongings normally pass to family and other beneficiaries by following the wishes in their Will, or if there is no Will by following the rules in inheritance law.

But what if a relation or someone you know dies and you don’t receive anything from their estate when you believe you should?  Family disputes are common and you may not even be aware that you have been written out of a Will.  Fortunately, it may be possible to make an Inheritance Act claim through the courts, whether or not there is a Will, so you receive a fair share of their estate.

Who can make an Inheritance Act claim?

Inheritance dispute claims such as these are made under the Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975 which we will call the “Inheritance Act”.

You may be eligible to make a claim if you were related to the deceased in one of these ways:

  • their spouse or civil partner
  • their former spouse or civil partner (as long as you haven’t remarried or entered into another civil partnership)
  • you lived with them for more than 2 years before they died
  • you were their child or were treated as their child (this includes adopted, fostered and stepchildren)
  • you were financially dependent on them at the time of their death.

There are tight deadlines for Inheritance Act claims

There are very short time limits for making Inheritance Act claims so it’s important to act quickly.  If the deceased left a Will then you typically have 6 months from the date that the grant of probate was obtained to issue your claim.  If there is no Will then it’s 6 months from the date that the letters of administration are obtained.

Given this tight timeframe you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.  If you take action before probate has been granted then you may be able to enter a “caveat” at the Probate Registry which will prevent a grant being issued.  It may also be possible to enter into a “standstill agreement” with the executors to give you extra time to reach an agreement and perhaps enter into mediation.

The Court hearing

If your case goes to court, the judge will weigh up the merits of your claim against other beneficiaries and look at any existing Will.  When making a decision they will take into account factors such as

  • the size of the estate
  • your financial circumstances and those of the other potential beneficiaries
  • your relationship with the deceased and any obligations they had to you
  • any disabilities you may have

If they find in your favour the court have wide powers to ensure that you receive your fair share.  This may include changing the deceased person’s Will, ordering payments out of the estate where there is no Will and even ordering repayments of sums already paid to other beneficiaries.  They can also remove executors, appoint new executors and can potentially hold executors personally liable for mistakes that have been made.

To find out more about Inheritance Act claims

If you believe that you have a potential Inheritance Act claim or would like to find out more, then our specialist solicitors are here to help.  Contact us today to arrange a free 30 minute initial consultation with one of our friendly team.

Backhouse Solicitors

If you would like to speak directly to one of our team then don’t hesitate to contact us in whichever way you’d prefer:

Tel:         01245 893400
Email:     [email protected]
Visit:       17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.