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Inheritance Claims - Changes On The Horizon

Posted on September 18th 2014 by

The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 will come into force on 1 October 2014.

From this date, the law surrounding claims made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 will change. This blog focuses upon the changes that will apply to claims for financial provision against the estate of deceased persons.

Set out below are some of the key changes that will come into play from the beginning of next month:-

1.     Grant no longer key to claim

It will now be possible to bring a claim against an estate without having to wait for the personal representatives of the estate to apply for a grant of representation.

This is a welcome change as it removes the obstacle previously encountered by claimants where the executors named in the Will delay in applying for probate in order to prevent the claimant from being able to bring their claim.

2.     Claim against half share in property no longer time barred

Property held under a joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving legal owner meaning that, typically, the half share of the deceased does not form part of their estate for distribution between the beneficiaries of their Will.

However, when considering claims for financial provision, the Court has the power to order that the half share of the deceased in the property can be treated as forming part of their estate enabling the Court to make financial provision for a successful claimant from the half share. However, currently, a claimant loses the right to claim against the half share if they fail to bring their claim within 6 months of the grant of representation. This ‘trap’ has been known to catch out unwary claimants and legal advisors.

This restriction has now been removed so that, if a claimant has to issue their claim after the 6 month period has elapsed, they will not be prevented from claiming against the deceased’s half share in property. This is an important change as, in a great number of cases, a deceased person’s half share in property will be their main asset.

3.     ‘Child of the family’ extended

It will now be possible for anyone who was treated as ‘a child of the family’ to claim against an estate. This extends to any family where the deceased took on the role of a parent for that person and will no longer be restricted to the family arrangements of a marriage or civil partnership.

The category of ‘person treated as a child of the family’ is currently of limited application i.e. to stepchildren. The new extended definition will broaden the scope of persons eligible to apply under this heading and will extend, for example, to grandchildren where a grandparent took on the responsibility for raising their grandchild.

4.     Single parent families included

The definition of ‘family’ will include single parent families. Therefore, where someone who has taken on the role of parent dies, ‘the person treated as a child’ will be eligible to claim.

5.     ‘Persons maintained’ – threshold reduced

Applications by persons who were being maintained i.e. supported financially (either in whole or in part) by the deceased immediately before the death will now need only show that the deceased made a ‘substantial’ financial contribution.

This residual category of applicant has been a useful ‘safety net’ for persons who have not been eligible to claim as a cohabitee of the deceased due to their not having been living with the deceased for the whole of the 2 years prior to death.

Until now, in order to successfully claim under this heading, it has been necessary to show that, on balance, the deceased made a greater financial contribution to the relationship than the applicant. Therefore, where both parties contributed equally, as is often the case in relationships, the applicant’s claim has failed.

However, so long as an applicant is able to demonstrate that the deceased made a substantial contribution, it will no longer matter whether their contribution was more than that of the applicant.

The above changes are set to open the door to a broader section of the population than has been the case to date and goes some way towards reflecting the modern reality and variety of family relationships. Applicants will also benefit from the more lenient criteria applicable to jointly owned property and to when a claim can be commenced.

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