Inheritance Act claims made by a husband or wife against their spouse’s estate
Contentious probate lawyer, Naomi Ireson, looks at Inheritance Act claims made by a husband or wife against the estate of their late spouse, recommending that claimants select their legal representatives carefully.
The purpose and intention behind the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 is to enable the courts to make financial provision to someone who has not been adequately provided for under the terms of the deceased’s Will (or under the Rules of Intestacy). Many Inheritance Act cases are determined on the financial needs and circumstances of the claimant rather than being based on what is morally right or fair.
However, as this passage from the leading Inheritance Act case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and others suggests, Inheritance Act claims made by a husband or wife, or a civil partner, can be based on principles of fairness and equality:
“all but spouses and civil partners who were in that relationship at the time of death can only claim what is needed for their maintenance; they cannot make a claim on the general basis that it was unfair that they did not receive any, or a larger, slice of the estate”.
This is confirmed by Section 1(2)(a) of the Inheritance Act itself, which states a spouse should receive:
“such financial provision as would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for a husband or wife to receive, whether or not that provision is required for his or her maintenance”.
Spouses are therefore treated far more generously than other categories of applicant under the Inheritance Act insofar as they do not need to show that award is merely for their maintenance.
In any Inheritance Act claim made by a husband or wife, the court will also take into consideration the following factors.
- the age of the applicant, and the duration of the marriage;
- any contributions made to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home or caring for their family;
- the provision that the applicant might reasonably have been expected to receive if on the day of the deceased’s death the marriage had been terminated by divorce. This is commonly known as the deemed “divorce cross check”.
Our Legal 500 recommended Inheritance Act team is highly experienced in this field, having recovered awards for numerous husbands and wives whose spouse had died without making adequate financial provision for them.
We work closely with barristers who have both family law and chancery law practice. The benefit of this for our clients is that we can retain legal counsel who regularly represent claimants and defendants in matrimonial proceedings — an area of practice that crosses over with spousal Inheritance Act claims. Uniquely, the barristers we instruct are usually willing to work with us on a no win – no fee basis, which they are not permitted to do in family practice.
If you are looking to bring an Inheritance Act claim against the estate of your late husband or wife then you need to select your lawyer carefully. Be wary of opting for a family solicitor, as they may not be able to offer you the same range of funding options that are available from our specialist team. Equally, a general civil litigation solicitor may not have detailed knowledge of family law, which is hugely relevant to a spousal Inheritance Act claim. Our team sits uniquely between these two positions, in the sense that we not only have the experience of dealing with inheritance claims for spouses, but can also offer a full range of funding options, including different types of no win – no fee agreements.
If you would like an assessment of your Inheritance Act case then contact our free legal helpline. We will consider the options open to you and the availability of no win – no fee funding. Call us on 0333 888 0407 or email us at [email protected]