I am not happy with the inheritance I have received, what can I do?

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Losing a loved one is a very emotional time for any bereaved person. This can be impacted if you discover that you have not received the inheritance you expected or have been left out of the deceased’s will.

Associate solicitor Katie Lofthouse from WHN Solicitors' dispute resolution team, explains what options are available if you feel you want to contest a will.

Challenging the amount you have been left under a valid will or through intestacy

If someone you know dies and leaves a will which does not provide you with the inheritance you were expecting, or they die intestate and you are to receive nothing from their estate, you may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. 

Only certain people are entitled to bring a claim under the Act. They are:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased or the former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (as long as that person has not remarried/entered into a subsequent civil partnership).
  • A person who, for the two years before the death, was living with the deceased as if they were their spouse or civil partner.
  • Any children of the deceased.
  • A person who was treated as a child of the family by the deceased.
  • Any other person who was cared for or looked after financially, wholly or partly, by the deceased immediately before their death. 

If you fall in to one of these categories, a claim can be brought for reasonable financial provision from the estate. 

The court cannot award a figure that is above what would be considered reasonable financial provision. Therefore, if you have been left an amount from the estate, you would need to assess whether that amount was reasonable before pursuing a claim.

What is reasonable financial provision? 

Unfortunately, there is no set calculation to assess what constitutes reasonable financial provision in an inheritance claim, however, the court will seek to make an award that will ensure the claimant lives at neither ‘a luxury or poverty-stricken level’.

If you are the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, the court will award an amount that takes into account the standard of living enjoyed by you prior to the death of your spouse or civil partner. 

Such a claim must be brought within six months of the date of the grant of probate, it is therefore imperative that legal advice is taken without delay under a potential claim. 

Time is of the essence in a claim brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, and therefore if you believe you have a claim, you should seek legal advice immediately. 

Challenging the validity of a will 

If you believe the contents of a will to be somewhat suspicious you may wish to investigate the validity of the will. This may be because the deceased person has left their estate to someone you would not expect, and you have been left nothing. You may perhaps have received a much smaller share than you would have expected, and you do not believe this reflects the deceased’s true wishes, 

There are several grounds upon which a will may be invalid. They are: 

  • Lack of testamentary capacity – the deceased did not have the required capacity to make a will.
  • Undue influence or fraud / forgery – the deceased was unduly influenced into making the will, or the will was forged.
  • Invalid execution – the will was not written and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. 
  • Lack of knowledge or approval – the deceased was not aware of the contents of, or did not approve of the contents of the will.

If a will is found to be invalid, any previous will still stands. If there is no previous will, the estate will fall under the intestate rules. It is therefore important to establish what inheritance you would receive if a challenge was successful, before challenging the will. 

Based at the firm’s Clitheroe office, Katie specialises in contentious probate. If you wish to discuss your concerns regarding an expected inheritance or how to approach contesting a will, please contact Katie on 01200 408300 or by email: katie.lofthouse@whnsolicitors.co.uk

Enjoyed this? Read more from Woodcocks Haworth & Nuttall Solicitors

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