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What is the Inheritance Act 1975?

As a Freelance Solicitor, I often work with clients around Cheltenham and Gloucester that have Inheritance and Trust disputes. My work in this area involves a variety of disputes and circumstances that are individual to each case. Central to these disputes is the Inheritance Act 1975. This Act provides protection to parties involved in the more complex matters of inheritance.

I consider it beneficial to explore this piece of legislation further, within this article.

What is the Inheritance Act 1975?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’) is a legal act of Parliament which is designed to protect those parties who are financially reliant upon another individual who then passes away without ensuring there is sufficient inheritance left to cover their dependant's ongoing needs.

The Inheritance Act allows certain categories of people to bring a claim against the estate of a deceased person where reasonable financial provision has not been made for them under that persons will or the intestacy rules.

Who can make a claim?

The Act outlines the categories of people that can make a claim against the estate of a deceased person. These categories are –

a. Spouse or civil partner of the deceased.

b. The former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (provided they have not remarried or entered a civil partnership).

c. A child of the deceased.

d. Any person who was treated as a child of the deceased.

e. Any person who was living in the same household as the deceased as husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased for a period of 2 years ending on the deceased’s death.

f. Any person who, immediately before the death of the deceased, was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased.

The legislation states that the claim must be brought within 6 months of the grant of representation. The court does have a discretion to extend the time limit but circumstance are rare.

What do you have to prove?

You have to prove that the distribution of the deceased’s estate, either by the will, or under the intestacy rules, will not leave you reasonable financial provision.

When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.

For all applicants except spouses or civil partners, reasonable financial provision means such financial provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the applicant to receive for his maintenance.

For spouses or civil partners, financial provision is not limited to what is required for maintenance.

What factors does the court look at when deciding what is reasonable financial provision?

1. The financial needs and resources of the applicant and any beneficiary of the estate.

2. Any obligations and responsibilities the deceased bore the applicant and other beneficiaries.

These include:

- The financial needs and resources of the applicant and any beneficiary of the estate.

- The obligations owed to the applicant or any other beneficiary.

- The size and nature of the estate.

- Any physical or mental disability of the applicant or other beneficiaries.

- Any other conduct.

- The court, in the case of spouse, will consider the deemed divorce test that is if the marriage had not ended in death but divorce what would the court have ordered.

If the court decides reasonable financial provision has not been made, what orders can the court make?

The court has wide powers to make orders against the net estate including:

1. Periodical payments.

2. Lump sum orders.

3. Transfer of assets of the estate.

4. Costs

5. Offer of settlement

If you would like to discuss your Inheritance or Trust dispute please contact me.

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