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Contesting your inheritance or entitlement

15 June 2023

Inheritance Act 1975: If you haven’t been properly provided for, we can help you get the outcome you need.

If you feel you have been left out of a will, treated unfairly or a promise made to you has been broken, you might be wondering what you should do next.

Regardless of the complexity of your situation, we’ll take the time to listen to you and understand what’s happened. We’ll then use this information, our skills and experience to make a reasoned assessment as to whether you have grounds to dispute an inheritance or to defend a claim.

If you have been left out of a will or believe you have not been adequately provided for – or perhaps the rules of intestacy (the rules which apply if a person dies without having prepared a will) have left you without sufficient resources or financial support – you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”).

Who can bring a claim under the 1975 Act?

It is a basic principle of the law in England and Wales that a person can leave their estate to who they wish via a will. However, the 1975 Act was introduced to enable certain categories of people to bring a claim where they have not been reasonably provided for under the terms of a will or the rules of intestacy.

In order to be eligible to claim under the 1975 Act, you must fall into one of the below categories:

  • A spouse or civil partner of the deceased
  • A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or entered into a subsequent civil partnership
  • An unmarried partner of the deceased who lived with them as husband, wife or civil partner for a period of two years immediately before the date of death
  • A child of the deceased whether an adult or a minor, including illegitimate or legally adopted children
  • A person who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family, for example stepchildren
  • A person who was financially maintained by the deceased immediately before the date of death.

If you fall within one or more of the categories above, the next step is to consider whether the will or intestacy has made reasonable financial provision for you.

Is there a time limit to pursue a claim under the 1975 Act?

Yes. The time limit in which a claim can be brought under the 1975 Act is six months from the date of the Grant of Probate or – if there is no will – the Grant of Letters of Administration.

If the time limit has passed it is still possible to pursue a claim, however you would need to make an application to the court for permission to bring the claim out of time.

What will the court consider in a 1975 Act claim?

There are numerous factors that a court will consider when deciding upon a 1975 Act claim. These include:

  • Your financial resources and needs now and in the foreseeable future
  • The financial resources and needs of any other applicant or the needs they are likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The financial resources and needs that any beneficiary named in the will has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • Any obligations and responsibilities the deceased had towards any applicant or beneficiary named in the will
  • The size and nature of the estate
  • Any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary named in the will
  • Any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which the court may consider relevant.

Why you should instruct Willans

We are one of the largest inheritance & trusts disputes teams in the South West and we work closely alongside our wills, trusts & probate department. Both teams are highly rated and recognised by independent national legal guide, The Legal 500. This cooperation is invaluable to ensure the swift resolution of disputes and the smooth administration of an estate.

Our team includes members of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners), ACTAPS (the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists) and SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) – experts who are, by definition, the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field.

Legal awards and credentials aside, we are friendly, responsive and explain things in a clear way, always keeping you up to date on what’s happening with your case in a timely manner.

How can I fund a 1975 Act claim?

We will discuss with you the ways in which you can fund your legal costs and our advice will be tailored to your specific personal circumstances. There are a range of options, which we cover in detail here.

Defending a claim under the 1975 Act

Are you an executor or a beneficiary of an estate that is subject to challenge? Is a third party attempting to make a claim against part or all of your inheritance as a beneficiary? Are you concerned about potential claims and spiralling legal costs?

Estate disputes are increasingly common and can result in significant costs and stress for those involved. Successful claims can reduce your entitlement as a beneficiary, and the litigation process will inevitably cause delays in administering the estate.

We act in defending claims made against both executors and beneficiaries. We are experts in this specialised area of law and are here to help you through a potential claim, whatever stage it is at.

If you have any queries regarding any of the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Contact us

Our Legal 500-rated inheritance & trusts disputes team offer friendly but practical advice for what can be a complex area of law.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
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Paul Gordon LLB
Partner
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