Are you struggling to pay the bills following the death of your spouse or civil partner? Are you concerned about whether you will have enough money to live on for the rest of your life? Has your partner left their estate to their children, and nothing to you? Are you concerned about being kicked out of your house?

If so, speak to our specialist solicitors about bringing an Inheritance Act claim.

Claims by spouses and civil partners under the Inheritance Act

A widow has a particularly strong claim against the estate under the Inheritance Act, a piece of legislation designed to protect people from unfair provision in wills. The court approaches these claims more generously than, for example, claims by adult children, where the provision is likely to be less generous.

Widows can generally expect to be able to enjoy the standard of living that they enjoyed when their partner was alive, assuming of course the estate is big enough. If that provision isn’t made for them, then the court have the power to intervene and to correct the situation.

As a spouse or civil partner, what will I get if I bring a claim under the Inheritance Act?

The Inheritance Act itself sets out a range of factors which would be considered when deciding what a person may receive, if anything. These include:

  • their own financial needs and resources
  • the size of the estate
  • whether any other person is bringing an inheritance act claim
  • the resources and needs of the actual beneficiaries of the estate
  • any obligations the deceased may have had towards that person
  • any physical or mental disability the person claiming may have
  • any other matter, including any conduct which may be relevant

For claims by spouses or civil partners, the court will also look at the length of the marriage as well as the contribution made to the welfare of the family,including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family.

Each claim will depend on its own facts, so you need to take specialist advice from a solicitor who has experience in this area, and is going to give you the best advice about what you might expect to receive.

Is there a time limit for bringing an Inheritance Act claim?

There is a time limit for bringing Inheritance Act claims. They normally have to be issued at court within 6 months from the date of the grant of probate. You can search online to see whether or not a grant has been issued.

Depending on how complex the deceased’s estate is, a grant of probate could be issued only a few weeks after the deceased’s death so this may not leave a lot of time for someone to make a claim. Therefore you should act quickly.

Can an Inheritance Act claim be brought after the initial 6 month period?

It is possible to bring a claim after the 6 months has expired but the court’s permission is needed to do that. The court looks at full range of factors, such as the reasons for the delay in making the claim, what prejudice would be suffered to the estate and any other beneficiary. There is no guarantee that the court would grant permission even if the delay were only a few weeks. Similarly, just because a claim may be brought many years after the grant, it doesn’t mean that permission would be refused. It will be up to the court to decide and again depends on the individual facts of the case.

Will I have to go to court?

Going to court is the last resort. The vast majority of claims settle well before the case gets anywhere near a court room.

Mediation is a common way of resolving Inheritance Act disputes. Mediation is a process where an independent mediator is appointed, who goes back and forward between the parties, trying to assist the parties in reaching a settlement.

What experience do you have in dealing with claims like mine?

We have a specialist team of lawyers, who focus purely on claims like yours. We have decades of experience in dealing with these claims, so we know what to do.

We work hard to achieve the best outcome we can for you, and to do sensitively and practically. We realise that the emotional issues can be as difficult as the financial ones.

Our recent experience includes the following claims:

  • Acting for a widow whose husband of over 30 years had left the bulk of his substantial estate to charity. We successfully negotiated a compromise of the claim where our client has walked away with a significant proportion of the estate.
  • Acting for a widow whose husband left his entire estate to her. She however found that she was defending claims bought by his children from a previous marriage.

What do I need to do if I think I might have a claim?

It is important that you take specialist advice as soon as possible, as strict time limits apply. You do therefore need to move quickly.

Speak to one of our specialist solicitors who will be able to advise you on your claim. We specialise in these sorts of claims and we have many years’ experience in helping people in similar situations to you. Many of our team are members of the Association for Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS).