I have missed the deadline to bring my claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 because of the pandemic. Is there anything I can do?
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”) allows certain categories of people (including spouses, children, co-habitants and those being financially maintained) to bring a claim against the estate of a loved one for a larger share of inheritance.
To succeed in such a claim, you have to prove that what you have been left is unreasonable, and that you have a reasonable need for financial maintenance from the estate. When considering these issues, the Court looks at various factors including the applicant’s financial position, health, the size and nature of the estate and whether there is anybody else with competing needs.
Under the 1975 Act, there is a strict deadline to bring such a claim within six months of the date that a Grant has been taken out from the Probate Registry. The reason for this very short time limit is to try and prevent there being any undue delay to the administration of the estate. If you believe that you have a claim, it is therefore always important to act quickly.
During the ongoing pandemic, this short deadline is likely to prove problematic for many individuals with legitimate claims under the 1975 Act. This might be because they are either ill, have no access to legal advice or because their mind is understandably elsewhere during this very difficult time.
However, whilst delay in bringing a claim does cause an issue, it is not necessarily fatal. Under the 1975 Act, you can still bring a claim after the six month deadline providing you obtain Court permission. When deciding whether to grant permission, the Court’s key considerations are the merits of the underlying claim, whether the estate has been distributed, whether there have been negotiations, whether the applicant would have recourse against anybody else and the length and reasons for the delay.
There have been many cases where applicants have successfully brought their claims out of time. Just last year, a widow was given permission to proceed with her claim over 25 years out of time, although the circumstances were very unusual. A commentary on that decision can be found here.
If your delay has legitimately been caused by the pandemic, you should therefore have good prospects of being able to proceed out of time providing there is merit to your underlying claim.
However, it is still very important to act quickly. As soon as you become aware of your entitlement to bring a claim and/or seek legal advice, the clock starts ticking. You should then look to bring you claim as quickly as possible as any further delay is likely to be held against you.
If you believe that you have a claim, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist contentious probate team.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*