Over recent years, contested probate claims have been on the rise. In 2019, there were 188 claims made with the Court, up from 128 the year before. This is not counting the countless cases which are settled outside of Court. Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”) by adult children are becoming increasingly more common.
What is a claim under the Act?
The Act allows certain classes of people to challenge a Will because the Will did not make reasonable financial provision for them. It is usually a spouse or child who is cut out of the Will.
Under the Act, you can make a claim against the Estate of a relative or loved one IF:
- prior to their death they were financially maintaining you; and
- you have not been left anything or have been left very little in their Estate; and therefore
- you have not been reasonably provided for by the Deceased.
Many different people can qualify to make a claim, but the most common cases involve an unmarried partner who lived with the person who passed away or child who has not inherited from the Estate.
If you are an adult child, and have been left out of the Will, you may have a claim under the Act. A claim made by an adult child is usually restricted to maintenance and the adult child must show that the parent had a “moral obligation” to them for an award to be made.
Why are these claims on the rise?
As it becomes increasingly common for couples to divorce and remarry, it becomes increasingly common for children of the family to be cut out of a Will, especially where a step-parent has changed their Will after the death of their spouse. This means more and more children are left out of a Will and do not receive any inheritance from their parent’s Estate.
Prior to the case of Ilott v The Blue Cross  UKSC 17, the general rule was that you would be unlikely to be successful in a claim under the Act as an adult child except in certain circumstances. This has changed following the decision in Ilott. A woman who was estranged from her mother and lived on state benefits succeeded in a claim against her mother’s Estate. She received around 10% of the Estate plus her legal costs. Since then, claims by adult children have been more common and more likely to be successful.
In addition to the Ilott case, there have been further Court decisions more recently that have made making a claim under the Act much more Claimant friendly. The decisions in Bullock v Denton  and Re: H  made it possible to reclaim success fees payable under a Conditional Fee Agreement (or no win, no fee agreement as they are commonly known). This gives the Defendant of such a claim additional encouragement to settle the matter early.
Furthermore, in more recent decisions, Defendants have been ordered to pay higher level of costs for failing to consider and enter into Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation at an early stage. These factors have all led to an increase in cases by adult children.
If you think you have been left out of a parents or loved ones Will or your loved one did not make a Will and you do not inherit, please contact our Dispute Resolution Team on 0116 204 2869 for advice.
You can learn more about our Dispute Team here.
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Written by Zoe Davis, Trainee Solicitor.