If you have been left out of a will, have not received as much as you were expecting or have lost out due to the rules of intestacy, you might be eligible to make a claim through the Inheritance Act. This Act sets out that a deceased individual may leave whatever they see fit to whoever they like. However, provisions can be made if an individual has reasonable grounds to expect an inheritance but receives less than they need or are excluded altogether. If you are concerned that you have not received as much as you anticipated after the passing of a loved one, here is how you can claim using the Inheritance Act.
What is an Inheritance Act Claim?
As mentioned above, it might be the case that an individual receives less than they expect or nothing at all after the passing of a loved one. If they can make a convincing case that they could have expected more, they may be eligible to make a claim.
The Inheritance Act was set out in 1975. It was created to protect individuals who are financially dependent on someone who then dies without giving them enough inheritance to cover their needs. Additionally, claims may also be made when an individual passes away without leaving a will, and the rules of intestacy have been used to determine the heir of their estate. If an individual is not related to the deceased by blood, they may miss out on an inheritance due to these rules.
If a claim is successfully taken to court and is judged as a reasonable challenge, the court can change the distribution of the deceased’s estate.
Who Can Make Inheritance Act Claims?
There are a select group of individuals that receive protection under the Inheritance Act. These include spouses or civil partners, children (including adopted or step-children) of all ages and former spouses or civil partners provided they haven’t remarried.
Additionally, someone who has cohabited with the deceased for more than two years prior to their passing or someone who was financially maintained by the dead individual may have the right to claim under the Inheritance Act.
How Quickly Do You Need to Make an Inheritance Act Claim?
There is a strict time limit on when a claim should be brought forward after probate has been granted in the wake of an individual passing away. If you are concerned about your inheritance, you will need to make an Inheritance Act claim within six months of probate being granted.
However, there may be exceptional circumstances in which a court may grant an extension to this time limit. You will need to apply to court for this to occur. Despite the possible extension, it is recommended that you try to make a claim as soon as possible, as delays can be disastrous and even derail your challenge.
How “Reasonable Financial Provision” Will Affect Your Claim
When making a successful Inheritance Act claim, you will likely be rewarded with “reasonable financial provision”. This is defined as a financial provision suited to the case’s circumstances for the applicant to receive maintenance.
“Reasonable financial provision” applies to all claimants in an Inheritance Act case except for spouses or civil partners. For this category of relation, the financial provision they can receive is not limited to what they need for maintenance. A court will consider how much the spouse or civil partner could have reasonably expected in the case of a divorce from the deceased individual. However, this will not set a minimum or maximum, and the amount is generally up to the court’s discretion.
For others, the court will take their daily living expenses into account. Additionally, it will consider the provision needed for housing costs. These claims can be difficult to value, and, as such, detailed proof of the claimant’s financial situation (resources and expenditure) will be requested. Additionally, the court may ask for historical information about the standard of living that they were used to prior to the deceased’s passing.
When is a Claim Deemed Successful?
Each case is different when it comes to Inheritance Act claims. As such, the court will consider each challenge on an individual, case-by-case basis. While this makes outlining what a successful case looks like challenging, there are certain factors the court will take into account while passing judgement.
The court will look into the total value of the estate and the financial requirements of the claimant. The financial resources and needs of the other beneficiaries will also be factored into the ruling. Additionally, whether the deceased had a financial obligation to the claimant will be looked into, and the nature of their relationship will be probed. Another factor that can influence the success of an Inheritance Act claim is whether the claimant is living with any disabilities that could impact their financial reliance on the deceased individual.
How to Make a Claim if You Believe that You Are Eligible
If you believe that you are eligible to make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975, the first step is to seek legal counsel. As previously mentioned, there is an Inheritance Act claims time limit that can affect your challenge, so this is best done as soon as possible.
Experienced legal advisors will guide you through the Inheritance Act claim procedure and stand you in the best position to receive your inheritance. If you are wondering “how do I claim my inheritance”? Competent legal counsel will help you find out.
In preparing your claim, you should collate the evidence and financial information that supports your challenge. This can be used to set out your claim in writing with all of the relevant supporting information. If there is a requirement for urgent financial support, an interim application may be made to a court.
Normally, your legal counsel will suggest settling the claim outside of court in the presence of a mediator. This will involve negotiations between the claimant and the executor of the will. However, if this stage is unsuccessful at resolving the challenge, it will need to be settled in court. This can cause costs to spiral for both parties, so it is likely in everyone’s best interests to try to keep it out of the courts if possible.
What Does the Executor Do During the Claim?
The executor of a will has a fiduciary duty of care for all beneficiaries in the will. Therefore, they are expected to be impartial and maintain neutrality if a dispute arises about who the beneficiaries are.
The executor should take no active part in defending the claims brought by the claimant. The primary beneficiaries should fulfil this role. As long as the executor remains impartial, they shouldn’t have any problems recovering costs related to the dispute from the estate. On the other hand, if they pick a side or cause unnecessary costs, they could be liable for their own expenses and even those of the claimant.
In summary, if you have been left out of a will or have received less inheritance than you expected based on your relationship with a deceased individual, you may be eligible to make an Inheritance Act claim. If this is the case for you, you should seek expert legal advice to determine your next steps to receive your inheritance.