You can make a will leaving your estate to whoever you like. But, did you know if you leave out a relative or dependent, they may still be able to claim ‘reasonable financial provision’ from your estate?
Not everyone can claim but, if they are eligible, what amounts to ‘reasonable financial provision’ is up to the court.
The court will consider what is required for maintenance, and there will need to be a detailed assessment of the financial position of the person making a claim.
Anyone wishing to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 must do so within six months of the issue of the grant of probate. After this, a claim can only proceed after an application to the court for permission, which is not always granted.
Given this relatively short timeframe, lawyers are often instructed at a late stage. In the past, they have often agreed with the executors to an estate to enter into a ‘standstill agreement’ (essentially putting the six month period on pause) whilst the parties try to resolve the claim outside of the courts.
Lately, there have been occasions in which the legality of these standstill agreements has been challenged. Where this has happened, lawyers have been forced to issue court proceedings to protect their clients, and then apply for a ‘stay’ in the proceedings (again, a pause in the case).
This meant that lawyers have had to prepare and issue the claim papers (at a cost to their clients) before fully exploring whether an out-of-court settlement could be achieved in the first instance.
The moral of the story is, if you want to make a claim, you need to act quickly!
Article written and contributed by Willans LLP
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered above, please speak to Willans LLP directly