Inheritance Act Claims: Claiming and Defending

If you have not received reasonable financial provision following the death of a loved one or an individual that you were dependent on, then you may be able to claim compensation through the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Maybe you have lost a loved one unexpectedly and no will had been drawn up before their passing. Or, perhaps you were included in a will but have not been awarded a sufficient sum. In any case, an Inheritance Act claim can result in you receiving a fair share of the individual’s wealth and possessions which more accurately reflects your relationship to the deceased.

At Brown Turner Ross, our Wills, Trusts, and Probate team can advise you on whether you would be eligible for an inheritance claim and guide you through the process of proving that you should be in receipt of reasonable financial provisions.

What is the Inheritance Act?

The Inheritance (Provisions and Dependants) Act 1975 is a law that enables certain individuals to claim a share of a deceased’s estate if a will was not drawn up, they were left out of a will, or if they were not left with a reasonable share of the deceased’s estate.

The idea behind the law is that dependants who are unable to maintain their standard of living following an unexpected loss, or from being left with an inheritance lower than they could have reasonably been expected to receive, may achieve financial security.

Inheritance law in the UK

When an individual dies with a will in place, the ownership of their estate is passed on according to the deceased’s wishes as specified in the will.

However, when an individual dies without a will in place, the ownership of their estate is passed on according to the rules of intestacy. In the event that this occurs, their estate will usually go to either their spouse/civil partner or their closest living relative.

Should no partner or known relative exist, the estate will pass to the Crown as ownerless property. If you believe that you should reasonably be entitled to a share of the deceased’s estate, then you can make an Inheritance Act claim to claim this amount should the court side in your favour.

Who can claim under the Inheritance Act 1975?

There is a limited number of people who have the right to claim part of a person’s estate through the Inheritance Act 1975. This most commonly comprises the deceased’s most immediate family including:

  • Their spouse/civil partner
  • Their former spouse/civil partner, provided that they have not since formed another marriage or civil partnership
  • Their children, whether adult or minor

However, if you are not included in this list then you may still be permitted to make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 if you are:

  • Anyone who cohabited with the deceased for at least two full years before their death as if they were married or in a civil partnership
  • Anyone who was treated by the deceased as a child of their family, through any marriage/civil partnership or other
  • Any other dependant of the deceased

How do I claim inheritance?

If you believe that you should be entitled to reasonable financial provision following the death of a relative or someone you were dependent on, then you should seek immediate legal advice as there is a six-month time limit on making an inheritance claim.

Working with your legal representative, you should collate any and all evidence that proves you are eligible for a portion of the deceased’s estate and collaborate to agree on a sum that you feel you deserve.

If the active beneficiaries of the estate disagree with your claim, you may proceed to court. However, it often works out much more favourably for both parties if a settlement is reached outside of court through mediation.

An Inheritance Act claim is one that challenges the amount of inheritance left to an individual, it is not suitable for challenging whether a will is valid or not in the first place.

Is there a time limit on claiming inheritance?

Yes, you have six months from the grant of probate to issue your Inheritance Act claim with the court.

It may be possible to make an inheritance claim beyond the six months limit, but you will need the express permission of the court and you will have to provide a reason as to why your claim is late.

How to defend an inheritance claim?

If you are a beneficiary of an inheritance and receive an inheritance claim against you, you should seek immediate legal advice and prepare to cooperate by sending any relevant documents that you have that contain information regarding the deceased’s estate.

Suppose it turns out that the claimant has a relevant claim to the deceased’s estate. In that case, mediation may be the best course of action to come to a quick and amicable solution for both parties without taking on an excessive amount of court fees.

How successful are Inheritance Act defences?

If you can accurately prove that the claimant has no right to financial provision from a deceased individual’s estate, then it is possible to defend an Inheritance Act claim.

The simplest defence for an Inheritance Act claim or for a contentious probate claim is one where you can prove that the claimant does not meet the eligibility criteria for making an Inheritance Act claim. However, it is unlikely to be as straightforward as this.

Therefore, you must be able to show that the deceased had no lasting responsibilities to the claimant and that the claimant has no need for immediate maintenance or will have any such need in the foreseeable future for the best chance of successfully defending an inheritance claim.

Are pensions subject to the inheritance act 1975?

As pensions are not automatically classed as part of an individual’s estate, it can be difficult to ascertain what type of pension an individual has or what they have instructed their pension provider to do with their pension from the outside.

We advise that you seek legal advice if you believe that you may have a claim to a family member’s pension as part of your inheritance.

Can a freezing order act on inheritance?

Yes, a freezing order applies to all of your assets above a specified value, including any inheritance you have inherited.

Can grandchildren claim under the Inheritance Act?

A grandchild can only claim under the Inheritance Act if their parent has died either before the individual whose inheritance is in question did or before the grandchild turned 18.