While a person is free to divide their estate however they see fit in their will, the Inheritance Act provides protection for those financially dependent on the deceased.
If a spouse, civil partner, child or surviving dependent is struggling to financially cope, and a will failed to effectively care for their needs, it is possible to make an Inheritance Act claim.
If you are debating whether to do so, here’s what you need to know about making a claim.
Who Can Make a Claim?
If you believe a will has failed to provide you with reasonable financial provision, you should consider disputing a will under the Inheritance Act if:
- You’re a spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- You’re a former spouse or civil partner and haven’t remarried or entered a new civil partnership
- You’re the child of the deceased
- You relied on the deceased for financial support
- You were treated as the deceased’s child
- You co-habited with the deceased as husband and wife for a minimum of two years before their death
What is Reasonable Financial Provision?
If you were either the deceased’s spouse or civil partner, you will not need to argue a financial need when disputing a will under the Inheritance Act. However, anyone else will need to provide evidence that they were financially dependent on the testator. The court will only deem they are entitled to reasonable financial provision if the person challenging a will requires maintenance.
Before making a decision, the court will take the following factors into consideration, which is in line with in section 3(1) of the 1975 Act:
- The applicant’s financial resources and needs
- The financial resources and needs of other applicants
- The financial resources and needs of any beneficiaries
- The responsibilities and obligations the deceased had to an applicant or beneficiary
- Both the size and nature of the estate
- If an applicant or beneficiary has a mental or physical disability
- Relevant information regarding the conduct of an applicant
Inheritance Act Claims for Spouses and Civil Partners
If, however, you’re the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, the court will look beyond maintenance requirements when making its decision, as they will review:
- The marriage duration
- The age of the spouse or civil partner
- A spouse or civil partner’s contribution to the family’s welfare
- The financial provision a spouse or civil partner would expect if a relationship ended in divorce
Potential Orders from the Court
If possible, Inheritance Acts claims should be resolved outside of court through mediation. However, if this isn’t possible when challenging a will, the court could potentially make one or more of the below orders:
- A lump sum order (a one-time payment)
- A maintenance order (periodical payments with a fixed amount)
- The redistribution or acquiring of property
- A sale or transfer of property order
- An order to vary a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial settlement if the testator was married