In the UK, there is no legal requirement to leave anything to your dependents or loved ones, therefore, anyone is entitled to exclude people from their Will. However, the simple answer to the question of whether an individual left out of a Will can do anything about it is yes, in certain circumstances.
The law provides for those who would reasonably expect an inheritance. This is called an Inheritance Act claim and if successful, the court may re-distribute the estate so that the claimant can benefit financially from the estate according to their needs.
Certain people who were connected to a person before they died may be able to make a claim against their estate if they were excluded from the Will or left with very little. It is ultimately up to the court to decide whether the Will or Intestacy Rules (where no Will exists) make a “reasonable financial provision” for the individual making the claim.
Who can make a claim when excluded from a Will?
According to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 those who are entitled to make a claim for a deceased’s estate include the following:
A spouse or civil partner
A former spouse or civil partner (provided they have not remarried)
Children of the deceased (biological, adopted and others treated as children such as step-children)
Anyone being looked after by the deceased when they died.
What is “reasonable financial provision”?
This is where the court will establish whether the claimant has been reasonably provided for. Each case is subjective and the court will have to weigh up different factors depending on the situation. It is therefore helpful to gain legal advice to establish whether you may be entitled to make a claim.
When considering reasonable financial provision, the court will look at the following:
The claimant’s current finances, daily expenses, and predicted future financial needs.
The financial needs of other claimants (such as children).
The financial needs of the other beneficiaries within the Will and whether they will be sufficiently provided for.
Any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had towards other claimants or beneficiaries.
The size of the deceased’s estate and whether there is ‘enough to go around’ so to speak.
Physical or mental disabilities of any other claimants or beneficiaries, and whether they will be provided for sufficiently.
The court will usually take a different approach with spouses and civil partners than others claiming under the Inheritance Act. The court will typically consider what may have been provided in a divorce settlement along with expected maintenance costs.
How can you make a claim?
To make a claim court proceedings must be brought within 6 months from the date of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
It is important to seek legal advice to understand whether a claim can be made and what will be required of you in terms of documentation.
The court will consider a number of factors in Inheritance Act cases including, the size of the estate, the needs of other beneficiaries, the individual who is making the claim (claimant) and their personal financial needs, the nature of the relationship between the claimant and the deceased and whether the deceased had responsibilities or obligations to the claimant.
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