Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act brings significant changes to inheritance claims

A new Act comes into force today (1 October 2014), which will change the way in which people can being claims for provision from a deceased’s estate.

The Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act makes a number of changes to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which enables certain family members and dependants to bring a claim for a share or greater share of a deceased’s estate.

To bring a claim applicants must demonstrate that they fall within a class of persons eligible to claim against the estate.  They must then satisfy the Court that the Will or intestacy of the deceased fails to provide reasonable financial provision for them.   

Broadly speaking Section 1 of the 1975 Act lists those entitled to bring a claim as:

(a)       the wife or husband of the deceased;

(b)       a former wife or former husband of the deceased who has not remarried;

(c)       a child of the deceased;

(d)       any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any marriage to which the deceased was
           at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage;

(e)       any person (not being a person included in the foregoing paragraphs of this subsection) who immediately
           before the death of the deceased was being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the deceased;

It is the last two of these classes which have been affected by the changes.

Child of the Family

The new Act widens the definition of a child of the family to include including any person treated as the deceased’s child regardless of their legal relationship. This will include grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children of the deceased’s partner and completely unrelated children who the deceased treated as their own. The test will be whether the relationship was such that the deceased stood in the role of parent. 

A Person Maintained by the Deceased

Previously an applicant claiming to have been ‘maintained by the deceased’ had to demonstrate that the deceased consciously assumed responsibility for their financial wellbeing and in assessing this the Court would often weigh up whether the deceased contributed more to the relationship than the applicant in a ‘balance sheet’ test.

The new Act removes the requirement that there be an intentional assumption of responsibility. It will now be sufficient that an applicant proves that they were maintained. The use of a ‘balance sheet’ approach will no longer be applied when considering eligibility to bring an application, though the Court will still consider whether the maintenance was part of a commercial arrangement and may take into account contributions when deciding what provision should be made.

In addition, the Act removes the very strict six month deadline for claims against jointly owned property to enable the Court to compensate late applicants from such assets.

Whilst it is possible that these changes will open the floodgates to claims the Court will still have discretion to make such orders as they deem appropriate and it remains to be seen whether how they will deal with claims under the new regime.

We are experienced in dealing with inheritance disputes and understand how distressing they can be.  Our team includes a member of the prestigious Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, and we are well placed to provide advice and support in these sensitive claims.  Contact Nicola on 01752 292278 to arrange an appointment or for further information.

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