O’Donnell Solicitors: Inheritance Act Claims and challenging a will

By O’Donnell Solicitors, The Straight-Talking Law Firm

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A RECENT survey revealed one in four people would mount a legal challenge against a loved one’s will if they felt they hadn’t been properly provided for. 

Rebecca O’Donnell

The research, carried out by Direct Line, follow statistics seen in real life; there has been a reported rise in Inheritance Act Claims over recent years.

But what are the rules surrounding Inheritance Act Claims and why are they becoming more commonplace?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 makes it possible to bring a claim against an estate of a deceased person where ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made for them.

Certain individuals can raise a legal dispute where they have been left out of a will, have not been left as much as they expected, or there was no will, and the rules of intestacy have left them insufficiently provided for.

Several categories of individuals that might feel they are entitled to make a claim are a spouse or civil partner, children (both minors or adults), a former spouse or civil partner (if not remarried), a cohabitee of the deceased, or anyone financially maintained by the deceased.

One important rule is court proceedings for a claim against an estate must be issued within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate. 

The deceased must have been a resident of England or Wales, although there are no re-strictions on where claimant lives.

The court will consider several factors, primarily the financial needs of the claimant, the size of the estate and other beneficiaries.

So why are Inheritance Act Claims becoming more common?

In recent years, the make-up of families has moved away from the traditional structure, with far more remarriages, which may mean stepchildren. 

As the range of potential claimants has expanded, the scope for disputes to arise has increased.

Where there are complex family arrangements or you are making provision that may be deemed ‘unexpected’, such as a large donation to charity or an uneven distribution between children, it may be advisable to include a ‘letter of wishes’ alongside your will.

This allows you to explain the reasons behind your decisions and can also be useful should your will ever be disputed.

• For further advice or assistance on any aspect of wills or estate planning, or to discuss making or contesting an Inheritance Tax Claim, contact Rebecca O’Donnell, Head of Private Client at O’Donnell Solicitors, on 01457 761320 or email Rebecca@odonnellsolicitors.co.uk

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