If you are unhappy with your inheritance under the terms of a Will or the rules of intestacy, you may have a right to make a claim against the estate for “reasonable financial provision”.
Who can claim?
There are only certain categories of people who are eligible to make a claim against the estate:
- Any spouse or civil partner;
- Any former spouse or civil partner (who has not re-married or entered into another civil partnership), if he or she is receiving maintenance at the time of the ex-spouse’s death and there is no Consent Order preventing such a claim being made;
- Cohabitee – if they have been living with the deceased for 2 years prior to the date of death;
- Any child or children – adopted or illegitimate or step-children;
- Any person treated by the deceased as a child of the family prior to his death;
- Any other person the deceased maintained at the date of his death – where the deceased was making a substantial contribution to their reasonable needs. This would include someone with mental or physical disabilities who were unable to support themselves.
What is the basis for a claim?
The Court will consider the following guidelines:
- The age of the Claimant;
- The length of the relationship and any separation;
- The contribution by the Claimant to the welfare of the family;
- Whether the Claimant is responsible for minor children;
- In the case of a spouse or civil partner, what would they have received if the relationship had been brought to an end by divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership;
- The Claimant’s present and future financial needs and resources;
- The present and future financial needs and resources of any beneficiary;
- The deceased’s obligations and responsibility towards the Claimant or any beneficiary;
- The size and nature of the deceased’s estate;
- Any physical or mental disability of the Claimant or any beneficiary;
- Any other matter;
- Any instructions or letter of wishes left by the deceased indicating his wishes or why he had excluded a beneficiary or reduced his inheritance.
This is not an exhaustive list and you should seek the advice of a solicitor immediately.
When can I make a claim?
A claim for reasonable provision must be made within 6 months of the issue of a Grant of Representation. If you wish to make a claim you must do so within this strict time frame as it is difficult to file after the 6 month period.
No distribution of the estate shall be made until after this time has elapsed. Should a Personal Representative distribute the estate before a claim has been dealt with, they may face personal responsibility for such distribution and may have to pay the Claimant’s claim and costs out of their own money.
What can I expect from a claim?
If you are successful in your application for reasonable provision, a Court can make any of the following orders:
- A lump sum from the estate;
- A transfer of property from the estate;
- To create a Trust – to allow the Claimant to live in a property for life;
- Regular payments from the estate for a set period of time.
What should Personal Representatives do in the event of a claim?
Personal Representatives need to seek legal advice immediately after they become aware of a potential claim.
There are steps that can be taken to administer the estate whilst still handling the claim.
There may be a conflict of interest between Personal Representatives who are also beneficiaries, or who are Claimants. It is essential for separate legal advice to be taken.
What is the next step?
We refer all contested will work to our sister company Watson Woodhouse Solicitors, they can explain how to make or defend a claim and what this means to you either as a Personal Representative or a beneficiary, what you need to do and what choices you have.
We strongly recommend a face-to-face meeting with one of their specialist Solicitors who will be able to explain things in greater detail and advise you on what to do next. The initial meeting will be free of charge and will explain the assistance they can provide to deal with or make the claim.