Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975
In the realm of estate planning and inheritance, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can be very significant.
This legislation, which applies in England and Wales, plays a crucial role in ensuring that the provisions of a Will do not inadvertently leave certain family members or dependants without adequate support. In this blog, we will delve into the key aspects of the Inheritance Act 1975, its purpose, and its impact on the distribution of assets.
Understanding the Inheritance Act 1975
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, commonly referred to as the Inheritance Act 1975, was established to provide help to close family members and dependants who feel they have been unfairly treated or inadequately provided for in a deceased person’s Will. The Act provides a legal framework through which these individuals can make claims to receive a share of the deceased person’s estate, even if the Will does not make provision for them or provides less than they believe they deserve.
Key Objectives and Principles:
The primary objective of the Inheritance Act 1975 is to ensure that reasonable financial provision is made for certain categories of individuals, including:
Spouses/Civil Partners: The Act recognizes the rights of surviving spouses and civil partners who may not have been adequately provided for in the Will.
Children: Children, including adult children (extending also to “any individual treated as a child of the family”), who have not been provided for in the Will or have received an insufficient share, can make claims under the Act.
Dependants: Individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased person, such as elderly parents or disabled individuals, can also make claims.
Making a Claim: For those who believe they have valid reasons to challenge a will under the Inheritance Act 1975, a legal process exists to initiate a claim.
This typically involves:
Proving Eligibility: The claimant must establish their eligibility as a spouse, child, or dependant of the deceased person.
Reasonable Financial Provision: The claimant must demonstrate that they have not been provided with reasonable financial provision in the Will, considering factors like their financial needs, the financial needs of others involved and the size of the estate. Other factors such as the effect of disabilities and the conduct of the individuals involved may also be relevant.
Time Limit: Claims under the Act must be brought within a specific time frame, usually no later than six months from the grant of probate.
Impact on Estate Distribution
The Inheritance Act 1975 acts as a safety net to prevent situations where family members and dependants are unfairly excluded from an inheritance. It balances the testator’s autonomy in distributing their assets with the responsibility to ensure that loved ones are provided for adequately.
Mediation and Litigation
Many cases involving the Inheritance Act 1975 are resolved through mediation, a process that encourages negotiation and compromise. This approach often helps maintain family relationships that might otherwise be strained through adversarial litigation.
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 serves as a vital piece of legislation, striving to strike a balance between the intentions of the deceased person and the needs of family members and dependants. By addressing instances of unfair or inadequate provision, the Act reinforces the importance of maintaining familial support, even in the realm of estate distribution. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you have been left without proper provision, seeking legal advice is crucial to understanding your options under the Inheritance Act 1975.
If you suspect that a Will was improperly executed or if you believe you were inadequately provided for, don’t hesitate to consult with our expert, Lewis Hastie.