Challenging an Inheritance
What is challenging a Will about?
As a will dispute solicitor I’m frequently asked about what to do if one has been excluded or left significantly less than what might be reasonably expected (for example if a parent leaves significantly less to children from a first relationship than from a second) in someone’s Will. As family dynamics have shifted over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries, challenging the distribution of an estate has grown increasingly common.
Typically, a person making a Will (‘Testator’) is free to do as they please in their Will. So as long as the Will has been made properly and validly executed it will stand. The law does, however, provide a fix for someone who should have been in the will but is not included.
It is worth noting that it is also possible to bring a claim even when the deceased made no Will and has, therefore, died ‘intestate’.
Who can bring a claim for inheritance?
The ability to contest either outright exclusion or unreasonable provision is contained in a piece of legislation called the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (IPFDA). Essentially, IPFDA allows certain individuals to contest the distribution of a deceased’s estate including:
- Spouses of the deceased and, in some limited circumstances, ex-spouses
- Co-habitees living together as spouses or partner with the deceased
- Children of the deceased
- People treated as a ‘child of the family’ for example step-children
- Family members dependent on the deceased or anyone maintained by the deceased at the date of their death.
As you can see this is a wide list of potential people who can bring a claim against the estate but it is worth noting that each set of circumstances will need to be considered before I can advise if a claim can be brought.
How do I start a claim for inheritance?
Claims for inheritance are like every other claim in civil courts. First, a letter setting out why you believe you have a claim and how much you are claiming is sent to the people dealing with the estate of the deceased. They will then have a choice to accept the claim, negotiate, or to deny the claim. If negotiations are unsuccessful or the claim is denied then formal court action must be brought if you still wish to pursue the claim
When should you bring your claim?
With this type of claim, it is very important to seek professional legal advice as soon as possible. This is because inheritance claims under IPFDA must be brought within six months of the date of issue of a Grant of Probate. The Grant is the formal legal document that confirms the power of the personal representatives of the deceased to deal with the estate.
It is possible to bring a claim outside of this time limit but you must be able to convince the court that you had a genuine reason for not doing so within six months.
How much does an inheritance claim cost?
Often I act on Conditional Fee Agreements (‘CFA’) – often called “no win no fee” agreements or with the benefit of Legal Expenses Insurance. I can defer legal fees until there is a success – either a settlement or a win at Court and you don’t pay if you don’t get a result.
In order to assess your case for a CFA, I charge an initial fixed fee assessment.
Alternatively, I can act for you on a privately funded basis. Fees can run into the tens of thousands but as above, if you are successful at court then you may recover your costs or at least the majority of them, from the estate. If a settlement is reached then your costs will be part of the negotiations.
How I can help
I am an experienced contested probate solicitor in Leicester so if you feel you have not been made reasonable provision for then please do not hesitate to contact me. I know that when faced with this issue, it can be a very emotional and difficult time especially as the dispute will often involve other family members. Please rest assured that anything discussed will be dealt with sensitivity and understanding.
Call now for a free no obligation chat
I’m recommended, experienced and approachable. Feel free to ask any questions.
Inheritance Disputes Solicitor
Call: 0116 3667 900