Claims against the estate of a deceased person for reasonable financial provision are made using the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 sometimes simply referred to as the Inheritance Act against the personal representatives of the estate and the other beneficiaries under the will or under intestacy rules
If the will of a deceased person leaves out or makes no provision for a relation, a dependant, or anyone the testator financially maintained or took responsibility for up to the point of death, those people can make a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate.
Claims against the estate of a deceased person for ‘reasonable financial provision’ are made using the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (sometimes simply referred to as the Inheritance Act) against the personal representatives of the estate and the other beneficiaries under the will (or under intestacy rules).
Such claims have to be made within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration if there is no will.
A claim, if successful, will entitle the applicant to ‘reasonable financial provision’, but how that is defined and how much that might be varies from case to case, as each one is different. A spouse, civil partner, child, someone treated as a child of the family, a co-habitee, or someone financially dependent on the deceased all fall into the categories of person that can make a claim.
If the applicant is a spouse or civil partner, ‘reasonable financial provision’ may mean that they are entitled to a 50-50 split of assets any husband or wife would ordinarily expect to receive.
However, the concept of ‘equal shares’ in the context of the Inheritance Act is merely a guide for assessing the reasonableness of any division of the estate. Other factors such as the brevity of the marriage or civil partnership will be considered, so automatic equal division of assets between spouses should never be taken for granted by those using the Inheritance Act to make a claim.
More about Inheritance Act claims
The question most frequently asked about Inheritance Act claims is what exactly is deemed to be reasonable financial provision? This depends on the status of the applicant and their relationship with the deceased. Factors such as the as the length of the marriage or civil partnership, the financial resources and needs of the applicant, any disability that made them financially or physically dependent on the deceased, any other responsibilities or obligations owed to the applicant by the deceased will be taken into account when deciding what provision should be made.
The size of the estate and its value, as well as the purpose and duration of any payments or contributions made by the deceased to someone they ‘maintained’, will be considered by the court. Claims by former spouses are rare if there was a divorce settlement since it is usual to exclude Inheritance Act claims in any financial settlement order.
Claims using the Inheritance Act cannot be excluded in a will but the deceased may write a ‘statement of intention’ in their will or a separate document setting out their reasons for making unequal provision (or no provision at all) for a particular person.
If the will is disputed, that statement, whilst unlikely to be binding, may provide insight into their intentions and the reasons for their decision. However, it is ultimately for the court to decide whether to make provision in favour of an applicant, and what that provision may be.