According to recent reports there has been a rise in the number of claims being made against estates.
One type of claim that executor and beneficiaries may face is an Inheritance Act claim. This is sometimes known as a dependency claim.
This claim is used where a relative or the partner of a deceased person – who did not receive any entitlement from the estate of the deceased, either because they were left out of the will or because the person died without a will so they did not inherit – can make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
You may be both an executor and beneficiary of the estate.
When you receive notification or an indication of a claim that threatens the estate and perhaps your own inheritance, you need to proceed carefully and should obtain specialist advice.
Executors (or personal representatives) have certain obligations and must remain neutral in litigation.
Failing to do so may result in your own personal liability for costs.
Beneficiaries are also placed at risk of having to pay the legal costs of the claimant, in the event that they defend the claim and the claimant is successful in achieving an award from the court.
The time limit for a claim is a strict six months from the date of the Grant of Probate. Potential claimants need to act fast.
In some circumstances the claimant will ask to enter into an agreement to extend the time limit.
Beneficiaries and executors need to consider this suggestion carefully as a failure to agree could result in criticism from the court, however each case is different.
The basis for a claim cannot be just disappointment or because of any sense of entitlement. The court will consider morality in some cases.
It must be due to the claimant not having received sufficient financial provision from the estate to meet their needs.
Those who may be able to claim are:
- A spouse or civil partner
- A child (including adult children and adopted children as well sometimes, stepchildren)
- A former spouse or civil partner (if they have not remarried)
- A cohabitee (if they lived with deceased for at least 2 years before they passed away)
- Any person who was financially maintained by the deceased
The court has to have regard to several factors when deciding on the claim including the size of the estate, the financial resources/needs which the claimant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future (and the same for other potential claimants and the other beneficiaries), any obligations/responsibilities which the deceased had towards the claimant and other beneficiaries, any physical or mental disability of the claimant and other beneficiaries and finally, any other relevant matter including the conduct of any of the parties.
Each case depends upon its own merits, which is a further reason why seeking legal advice is crucial and should be done without delay.
Contact or Dispute Resolution team now to speak to our specialist team about your situation. Call 01772 799 600 to arrange a free initial discussion with a solicitor.
Article by Dispute Resolution Solicitor, Katy Rider (Senior Associate).