Unlike some other legal jurisdictions, England and Wales do not have laws that allow for forced heirship. English courts have always held that a testator can leave their wealth to whomever or whatever they wish. However, there are some instances in which someone who is or should have been the beneficiary of a will is left in dire need, due to a lack of reasonable provision. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, also known as the Inheritance Act 1975, is intended to provide relief if you find yourself in the situation described below.
Consider the following scenario. Your parents divorced, and your father later remarries a woman with children from her first marriage. You all get along well. Your father, a flourishing man, dies unexpectedly. While you are grieving, you discover that he left everything to his second wife in his will. Nothing is given to you or your siblings (his only children). Worse, you learn that your stepmother has changed her will to leave everything to her children from a previous marriage, including the inheritance she received from your father. Do you believe you have a right to a loved one’s estate but don’t know where to begin?
What Constitutes a Reasonable Financial Provision?
In all Inheritance Act 1975 claims, the first and most important question to ask is, “has the deceased’s estate made considerable financial provision for the class of the potential applicant by the standard applicable, to that applicant?”
The Court’s power to grant relief under the Inheritance Act 1975 is limited to ordering only what is reasonably necessary for the applicant’s maintenance. The applied standard being, the applicant must be able to live “neither luxuriously nor indigently.” If the applicant is the deceased’s surviving spouse or civil partner, they could claim a higher maintenance standard that considers the applicant’s standard of living prior to the testator’s death, as well as the type of financial settlement the applicant might have obtained, if the relationship had ended in divorce rather than death.
Who can claim under the Inheritance Act 1975?
The Court must consider the following factors listed in section 3 when exercising its power under the Inheritance Act 1975.
The applicant’s financial resources and financial needs, either now or shortly.
The financial resources and financial needs that any other order applicant has or is likely to have shortly
The financial resources and financial needs that any beneficiary of the deceased’s estate has or will have shortly
Any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had towards any applicant or beneficiary of the deceased’s estate
The size and nature of the deceased’s net estate
Any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary of the deceased’s estate
Any other matter, including the applicant’s or any other person’s conduct, which the Court may consider relevant in the circumstances of the case
If your application is successful, the Court may make a variety of awards, including a single payment or recurring payments, property transfer, or a lifetime right to live in an estate, with the property reverting to the applicant’s estate upon death. Van Eaton Solicitors has extensive experience handling and resolving inheritance disputes. When it comes to Inheritance Tax claims, we will work hard to ensure that you receive financial provisions as soon as possible. If you wish to claim under the Inheritance Act and would like reliable legal advice, get in touch with us today by calling 0208 769 6739 or 07736790321. Alternatively, you can inquire here.