The law allows certain close relatives to bring a claim against a deceased relative’s estate if they believe that it fails to make reasonable financial provision for them.
Strict time limits for making your Inheritance Act claim
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, a person wishing to bring a claim must either resolve their dispute or commence court proceedings within six months of a Grant of Representation being obtained. If they fail to do so, they can only bring a claim with the express permission of the Court. This permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.
What could happen if you delay? The outcome of a real case.
A recent case had made clear how important it is to bring a claim in time. In Cowan v Foreman & Others, the deceased, Michael Cowan, died in April 2016 with an estate of around £16 million. A Grant of Probate was obtained in December 2016, which meant that the six-month time limit to bring a claim expired in June 2017.
Mr Cowan’s wife, Mary, sought to bring a claim on the basis that her position was insecure due to Mr Cowan’s estate giving his trustees discretion as to dealings with Mr Cowan’s assets.
Mary’s solicitors agreed with the solicitors acting for Mr Cowan’s estate that they would not take any issue with Mary bringing a claim after the expiry of the 6-month time period to bring a claim.
Mary issued a claim at Court, but the Court found that the claim was out of time and would not allow it to proceed. Mr Justice Mostyn decided that it was not within the gift of the parties to agree more time between themselves, and there was no good reason for Mary not bringing her claim within six months of the Grant of Probate. Even though the parties agreed to more time between themselves, the Court took the strict approach of deciding that time limits exist for a reason and they will be enforced unless exceptional circumstances apply. Mary’s claim therefore cannot continue unless she can successfully appeal the Court’s judgment.
Considering making an Inheritance Act claim?
The key message from the case is to act promptly. If you are disappointed by the contents of a will and believe that it fails to make reasonable financial provision, it is imperative to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Failure to do so could mean that you lose the right to bring a claim.