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Contesting your inheritance or entitlement

02 February 2019

Inheritance Act 1975: If you haven’t been properly provided for, we can help you to 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 claim.

You might feel that you have been unfairly left out of someone’s will. Or perhaps the rules of intestacy (the automatic rules which apply if a person dies without a will) have left you without the resources or finances you were depending on.  In these situations, you may be able to claim under the ‘1975 Act’. The full legal term for this is the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Alternatively, if you’re the one facing the claim, we can help you to defend this, too.

Can I make a claim under the 1975 Act?

There are a few situations in which you might be able to make a claim. For example, you could be an immediate family member of the person who has died (such as their spouse/child), the person who has died stood in a role of parent to you, or you may have depended financially on someone before they died. These are just some examples, and not an exhaustive list.

You’ll only be able to claim if you can show that the person’s will (or if they didn’t make a will, the rules that govern what happens to their estate) doesn’t support you properly, given the financial support that person gave you in their lifetime.

Lawyers call this ‘reasonable financial provision’. The level of financial support that you can expect to receive from the estate depends on lots of facts. Your solicitor will look at all the circumstances, including how much the estate is worth, and how your needs compare to those of the other people set to benefit from the estate.

Depending on what you are claiming for and whether it’s successful, the court can do things like redistribute the estate, award payment of a lump sum, create a trust for your benefit or transfer property to you. Of course, the outcome depends on the individual facts of your case, and we’ll discuss this clearly with you from the beginning.

If you think you might have a claim, there’s no time to waste. Under the rules, you only have 6 months to apply from when the person administering the estate gets the Grant of Representation. If you don’t make this deadline, it will be more difficult to make a claim albeit not impossible if you can show exceptional circumstances.

Challenging broken promises

If you have been promised a gift or other property from the person that has died, and this hasn’t been reflected in their will, you may still be able to make a claim for it.

This is called proprietary estoppel, and it is a legal phrase for what most people will see as a ‘broken promise’.

To make a claim, you’ll need to show that you were promised this property, that you relied on the promise being kept, and that you’d be disadvantaged if the promise isn’t kept.

It’s up to the court whether they give you all or some of the property, or whether they compensate you from other parts of the estate.

We can help you to bring or defend claims like these.

Dealing with disputes the right way

For you to achieve the best possible outcome, you’ll need people with the best possible credentials and expertise.

Our team includes members of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and ACTAPS (the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists); experts who are, by definition, the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates and related disputes.

Independent legal guide The Legal 500 describes our contentious probate team is “excellent in all aspects: almost immediate response times, with in-depth knowledge and experience.”

Legal awards and credentials aside, we’re a friendly team and will always explain things to you in a clear and practical way, and keep you updated on what’s happening with your case in a timely way.

Every case is different: while some require a robust approach, disputes of this sort are often extremely sensitive, many involving family relationships. Our experienced lawyers approach matters in an understanding, practical and sympathetic way.

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Paul Gordon LLB
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