We are often asked how to claim inheritance money and other assets. Here is a short guide on what you need to know about the law in England and Wales.
Are you entitled to inherit?
There are three main ways in which you can inherit.
- You can inherit under a will if you are named as a beneficiary, or
- You can inherit under the intestacy rules if there is no will and you satisfy the legal requirements, or
- You can inherit as a result of making a legal claim
If there is a will then the terms of that document dictate who administers the estate and who inherits from the estate.
If there is no will, then the Rules of Intestacy (default provisions) will determine who is entitled to administer the estate and who will inherit from the estate.
The first step is to find out if a will has been made and whether it names you as a beneficiary. The easiest way to do that is to obtain a copy of the Grant, once it has been issued. Please refer to our guide, How to get a copy of a will which will help you to do this.
If there is a will, you will receive a copy of the Grant of Probate and a copy of the will.
If there isn’t a will, and the Rules of Intestacy apply, you will receive a copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Notifying your claim
The Grant is a very useful document and will tell you:
- The names of the Personal Representatives who will be administering the estate
- How much the estate is worth, and
- Whether solicitors are involved.
Once you’ve obtained that information and have confirmed that you are entitled to inherit from the deceased’s estate you can now go on to claim inheritance money and any other assets left to you.
The next step is to contact either the Personal Representatives or their Solicitors.
Ask them to:
- Confirm that you are a beneficiary of the estate
- Provide details about the assets and liabilities of the estate, and
- Give an indication of how soon you will receive your inheritance.
How long does it take to claim inheritance money?
There is a piece of legislation known as the Inheritance Act which allows people to bring a claim against an estate if they aren’t sufficiently provided for under the terms of a will or under the rules of intestacy.
Ordinarily, claims should be brought within six months of a Grant being issued and, provided the Personal Representatives do not distribute the estate before that period ends, they cannot be held personally responsible should a claim be brought later on.
The result of this is that Personal Representatives (particularly professionals such as solicitors and accountants) will not normally pay any inheritance money until at least six months after a Grant has been issued, to ensure they are protected.
While it is not a binding rule or law, there is also a principle known as the “Executor’s Year”. This suggests that unless an estate is particularly complex or there is a complicating factor which causes some delay, then Personal Representatives ought to be able to fully administer and distribute an estate within one year of the Grant being issued.
Should that principle not be complied with, then you would be entitled to ask some serious questions of the Personal Representatives and consideration may need to be given to potentially seeking their removal and replacement. Please see our guide, How to remove or replace an executor.
The combination of the six month time period under the Inheritance Act and the “Executor’s Year” principle means that it is likely to take some time before you actually receive your inheritance.
Personal Representatives can be asked to provide updates as the estate administration progresses, but they will also be conscious about incurring additional costs in doing so too regularly, as this will only serve to reduce the value of the estate.
Legal guidance on how to claim inheritance money
If you have concerns that an estate is not being administered properly, or if the Personal Representatives are refusing to provide information to you, or if you think that a Personal Representative has done something wrong and caused a loss to the estate, then contact our free helpline on 0808 1391599 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org