If a relative or loved one has died, and reasonable financial provision has not been made for you when you believe it ought to have been, it may be possible for you to bring a claim for help under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. If your claim is successful, financial provision will be made for you either by altering the terms of your relative or loved one’s will or, if there is no will, varying the statutory rules that govern who should get what (the intestacy rules).
Who can make a claim?
A claim under the 1975 Act can only be made by the following people:
- surviving spouses and civil partners;
- former spouses and civil partners (provided they have not remarried or entered a new civil partnership);
- cohabitees who lived with the deceased as though they were married or in a civil partnership for at least two years prior to the deceased’s death;
- biological children of the deceased and those treated by the deceased as though they were his or her own children; or
- people who were financially maintained by the deceased prior to their death.
How much could I get?
How much financial provision is made for you if your claim is successful will depend on how much money and property your relative or loved one had when they died (the value of their estate) and your relationship to them.
Surviving spouses and civil partners can be awarded whatever is reasonable in all the circumstances, which may be more than they need to get by on if the deceased’s estate is worth a lot of money.
Anyone else who makes a claim will only be entitled to a financial settlement sufficient to meet their daily living costs at whatever standard may be appropriate to them (known as maintenance).
In either case, the financial provision made cannot be more than the estate can afford to pay.
What factors will be considered?
In deciding whether provision should be made for you and, if so, in what amount, a number of factors must be considered, including:
- your financial needs and resources for the foreseeable future, as well as those of anyone else entitled to make a claim under the Act and those who currently stand to inherit under the will or rules of intestacy;
- any obligations and responsibilities the deceased had towards you or any of the existing beneficiaries;
- the size and nature of the deceased’s estate;
- any physical or mental disability you or any existing beneficiary may be suffering from; and
- any other matter that may be relevant, including your behavior or that of anyone else involved in the claim.
There will also be other factors that will be considered, depending on your relationship to the deceased.
What should I do if I think I have a claim?
If you think you may have a claim under the 1975 Act it is important that you take legal advice as soon as possible, and preferably before permission to begin administering and distributing your relative or loved one’s property and personal belongings has been given to their executors. As an absolute maximum, you will usually only have six months from the grant of probate (if there is a will) or the issue of letters of administration (if there is no will) to make your claim.
The wills and probate team at Myers & Co Solicitors, supported by our in-house team of dispute resolution lawyers, have a wealth of experience in bringing claims under the 1975 Act. Taking account of your circumstances, we can help you determine whether a claim may be possible and, if it is, try to negotiate with those responsible for dealing with the estate (and those who currently stand to benefit from it) to try to secure financial provision for you without the need to go to court. We can also, of course, deal with the matter for you if court proceedings do become necessary.
Our wills and probate team can also advise the executors and administrators of estates who may be on the receiving end of such a claim. We can also advise existing beneficiaries (including charities) who face the risk of seeing their inheritance reduced if a claim under the Act is successful.
Based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, our specialist dispute resolution solicitors provide services throughout Staffordshire and Cheshire. To find out more, please contact a member of our dispute resolution team on 01782 577000.