I'm a disappointed beneficiary - what are my options?
It can be distressing to learn that a parent or other relative has not made any provision for you in their will, particularly where conversations during their lifetime gave you good cause to believe you would receive a benefit from their estate on their death.
Unlike several European jurisdictions, there is no requirement in the UK that you must leave your estate to your legal dependants or immediate family. This means that if you feel you have been excluded from the will against your expectations, you will need to pursue one or more of the following claims.
A claim to challenge the validity of the will
A will can only be overturned on certain specific grounds, namely:
- The deceased lacked capacity to give instructions for the will
- The deceased did not know and approve of the contents of the will
- The deceased was put under pressure to execute the will
- The signature on the will is a forgery
- The will is invalid because it has not been properly executed.
While you are investigating whether any of these grounds might apply, you can lodge what is known as a caveat for a fee of £3 at the Probate Registry. The caveat puts a halt on the administration of the estate until your concerns have been addressed.
A claim for reasonable provision from the estate
If you are the spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, or child (including an adopted child) of the deceased or person who was financially dependent on the deceased, you will be automatically eligible to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
This Act enables a variation of the will or Intestacy to meet the reasonable needs of people that the deceased might have been expected to provide for. Your claim would be assessed by reference to several factors including:
- Your financial needs and resources and those of the beneficiaries of the estate
- The size of the estate
- Any obligations or responsibilities owed to you and the beneficiaries of the estate by the deceased.
Claims of this nature can usually be resolved at an early stage following a short period of investigation and without the need to go to court, but they are specialist claims where advice from a solicitor at an early stage is key.
Lucinda Brown is a partner in BDB Pitmans’ will and trusts disputes team in Cambridge. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bdbpitmans.com .
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