A viral TikTok video has recently been circulating the internet regarding a family argument over a grandson being left the majority of his grandmother’s estate, a decision which has clearly caused some upset within the family.
This situation is extremely common within the contentious probate world. Often, family disagreements regarding a person’s estate arise after they have already passed away, as a Will may then be located which contains instructions that not every family member would agree with. For example, some people may be disappointed as they don't receive any inheritance and they were always under the impression, or had an expectation, that they would be provided for. Another example may be a family member who is considered to be ‘non-deserving’ receiving a significant amount of inheritance, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of others.
If this is a situation that someone happens to find themselves in, what are their options moving forwards?
The starting point in UK law is that everybody is presumed to have the principle of ‘testamentary freedom’. This essentially means that people are allowed to leave their estate to whomever they choose to name in their Will, no matter the circumstances surrounding their relationship. Testamentary freedom also means that there is no legal obligation on someone to make provision in their Will for a particular relative.
However, if a person believes they should have inherited from a Will, or if they have received a gift that they believe is not adequate, then they may be able to make a claim against the deceased persons estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”). The Inheritance Act is a piece of legislation which gives the Court the power to amend the terms of an individual’s Will (or the intestacy rules if there was no Will) where it considers that its provisions fail to provide certain categories of people with “reasonable financial provision”. Those who can apply under the Inheritance Act are:
- Spouses or civil partners of the deceased;
- A former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (so long as they have not remarried/entered into a further civil partnership);
- A child of the deceased or a person who was treated as a child by the deceased;
- A person who was living with the deceased for the two years prior to their death;
- A person who was being maintained by the deceased immediately prior to their death.
When assessing the strength of a person’s claim under the Inheritance Act, their financial needs are a primary factor of importance as the Court usually suspects to see an income shortfall, debts or other justifications as to why they are unable to financially support themselves.
It is also important to note that claims under the Inheritance Act must be made within six months of the Grant of Probate being extracted.
If you find yourself in a similar situation to the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our expert team on 0370 150 0100.