Inheritance Act 1975 – time to claim?

The High Court has recently refused permission for a surviving spouse to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Inheritance Act 1975), over 10 years after the Grant of Probate was issued in her deceased husband’s estate (Sargeant v Sargeant & Anor [2018] EWHC 8 (ch)).

The aim of the Inheritance Act 1975 is to make financial provision for those who have been left out of a will, who have not inherited as a result of an intestacy, or have not been left as much as they need. The crucial question in an Inheritance Act claim is whether the will (or intestacy) failed to make “reasonable financial provision” for the claimant in all the circumstances of the case, according to the standard applicable to that claimant. A different test is applied for spouses and civil partners, compared to other dependents of the deceased.

Where the Court decides that reasonable financial provision has not been made, they may vary the distribution of the deceased’s estate for certain family members and dependents. The value of the award will depend on the standard of reasonable provision, and the Court will consider housing needs, deficiency of income, whether the claimant has any interest in property, and the lifestyle that the claimant and the deceased led before their death. Consideration will also be had to any expression of wishes the deceased left in their Will, as to why financial provision was not made in the first place.

The time limit for bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 is six months from issue of the grant of representation. The Court does have discretion to allow claims out of time, although cases on this point inevitably turn on the facts. In Sargeant, the fact that the claimant continued to work within the arrangements provided by the will for a period of 10 years, rather than explore what other options were available to her to vary them earlier on, were highly relevant and went towards the Judge’s decision in refusing to grant permission to the out of time claim. Nor did the Court accept her argument that she had not been advised to make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 until then. In any case, we would recommend making your claim well within the six month period after the grant is issued.

Please contact Laura Sentkovsky at laura@meaby.co.uk with any questions.

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