When You Have Not Been Reasonably Provided For (Case Study of a Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975) (“the Inheritance Act”)

  • Contentious Probate

In late 2014 Summit Law LLP was approached by a client. He was a young man, just 18 at the time and unfortunately his father had died.

Our client was distressed. After his father’s death a Will materialised leaving a small legacy to him and other small legacies to friends and other family of the deceased. The remainder of the multi million pound estate was to be given to his half-brother. Our client was also concerned as the Will had been signed close to the date of death and he was worried about his father’s state of mind at the time of signing.

Our client was concerned as he had always been promised to be treated equally and the deceased had made various promises that he would be maintained until he completed his studies at university.

Summit Law LLP explained that the Inheritance Act allows certain types of claimant, such as a child of the deceased, to apply to the court for provision out of a deceased’s estate when reasonable financial provision has not been made for them either under the deceased’s will or intestacy.

It was clear on the facts that our client had not been reasonably provided for in accordance with the criteria set out in Inheritance Act. Since the Will materialised a few weeks prior to the expiry of the statutory limitation date (being the end of the period of six months from the date on which the grant of representation was taken out), Summit Law LLP promptly made the claim.

Having secured our client’s position we were able to then consider the situation in more detail. Our client’s mother had not been paid child maintenance. The deceased had again promised that in lieu of the regular payments he would ensure that our client would be provided for later in life and on an equal footing. We alerted our client and his mother that this sum may be recoverable as a debt against the estate.

Our client’s mother took independent advice and she decided to assign this claim to our client in order that the claims could be pursued in parallel for the benefit of our client.

We then turned to the matter of the validity of the will. We obtained the deceased’s medical records and, with the assistance of an expert, appraised the merits of this evidence. It soon became clear that there was evidence that the deceased had experienced high levels of confusion prior to his death and therefore there was a viable claim that the Will may have been void for “want of knowledge and approval.” In other words the Will was not valid as the testator did not have knowledge and approval of its contents.

Our client therefore had three viable claims against the estate. The Inheritance Act claim, the potential unpaid maintenance claim and the potential invalidity claim.

The parties proceeded to mediation with the aim to settle. Our client was at an advantage as we had whittled out the merits of the two other claims which were used as an incentive to negotiate.

In particular it would have been undesirable to issue on the invalidity claim, as if this claim was successful the estate would have been governed by the rules of intestacy and the half-brother would have stood to have lost many hundreds of thousands of pounds and, in turn would probably have to have issued his own Inheritance Act claim.

After spending some time deliberating the parties managed to reach settlement and our client achieved a figure 5 times greater than the original offer from the half-brother.

Do you think you have been inadequately provided for under the Will of a loved one or perhaps you know somebody that is currently suffering through this issue?

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