Defending a claim under the Inheritance Act
Posted on 9 July 2019 by Charlotte Dullaway
If you are a beneficiary or a personal representative it can come as a shock to learn of a claim against the estate. You may be unsure of what you should do and how you can protect the estate from being consumed by litigation costs.
What is a claim under the Inheritance Act?
Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 are brought by people who are disappointed with their entitlement under the Will or Intestacy Rules. Only certain categories of people can bring Inheritance Act claims. These are:-
1. Spouses/Civil Partners
2. Former spouses/civil partners who have not remarried or entered into new civil partnerships
3. Children of the deceased
4. Children of the family of the deceased (e.g. stepchildren)
5. Cohabitees (in certain circumstances)
6. Individuals financially maintained by the deceased
A claim under the Inheritance Act is a claim for provision from the estate which is not provided for within the Will or under the Intestacy Rules. Claimants can seek a wide range of types of provision including cash lump sums, transfers of property and interests in property. When deciding what provision, if any, should be made, the Courts will consider a range of factors including:
1. The size and nature of the estate
2. The financial needs of the Claimant and any other beneficiaries
3. The deceased’s moral obligations
4. Any disability of the Claimant and any other beneficiaries
5. Any other relevant factors (such as the conduct of the parties)
Who will be defending the claim?
The personal representatives and beneficiaries will have different roles when faced with a claim. Whilst it is not unusual for a personal representative to also be a beneficiary, it is important that they are clear on which role they are acting in when responding to the claim.
Personal representatives need to receive specialist legal advice when faced with a claim. A failure to act appropriately could impact upon their ability to recover their legal costs from the estate. You may have instructed solicitors to deal with the administration of the estate but it is advisable to also obtain advice from a contentious probate specialist where a claim arises. This stops your litigation costs and administration costs getting mixed together.
We can advise you on how to deal with the claim in a way which protects both yourself and the estate. Litigation can be very expensive and a pragmatic approach and accurate advice can prevent the estate becoming embroiled in often unnecessary Court proceedings.
Beneficiaries are generally the ones to defend a claim against the estate. After all, they are the ones who stand to lose out if the claim succeeds or if protracted and costly litigation eats into the estate.
Whilst it is perfectly understandable to feel aggrieved and defensive when a potential claim threatens your own inheritance, it is important to take a realistic approach when deciding how to respond. Sometimes people try their luck and there is no need to pander to nonsense claims. However, when faced with a claim which may stand some chance of succeeding at Court, you should carefully consider how much you are prepared to risk if you let it get that far. Everybody loses if the whole estate goes to the lawyers!
What should you do when faced with a claim?
• If you receive notice of a claim, whether it is expected or not, it is important to remain calm. If the notice has come from a firm of solicitors you should avoid contacting the claimant directly to discuss the claim.
• Depending on what you have received, you may need to act quickly and so you should seek legal advice without delay.
• You may also want to contact any other beneficiaries who are likely to want to defend against the claim as it may be possible for you to jointly instruct a lawyer thus sharing the costs.
We are here to help if you have received details of a claim and would like to discuss your options. Contact Charlotte Dullaway in our Contentious Probate Team on 01823 446230 or via email email@example.com.
Posted in: Dispute Resolution