Is Your Inheritance Reasonable?

Is Your Inheritance Reasonable?

Losing a loved one is difficult, and it can be very difficult to learn that you have not been left as much in the Will as you would have expected, or as much as you may need. It is particularly distressing if you are left to deal with matters on your own with a reduced income or the prospect of losing your home.

This situation most commonly seems to arise when partners are unmarried, and no Will is made so you receive nothing under Intestacy rules, or perhaps an old Will gives provision to children from a previous relationship, but not to the current partner. However, there are many other situations where you may feel you have not been left a fair inheritance or that you are financially in need now that person has died. Discrepancies in inheritance left to siblings can also be problematic.

Although not straightforward, it can be possible to raise a challenge to the Will (or Intestacy rules if there is no Will) and ask the Court to make a decision on whether you have been left ‘reasonable financial provision’.

Who Can Challenge?

Using the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, only certain categories of people can raise a challenge to their inheritance:-

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased. They are entitled to such provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances for them to receive, whether or not it is required for their maintenance. Spouses and civil partners are given special consideration here, as other people have to show that the sum is required for their ongoing maintenance.
  • The former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (who has not remarried or entered into another civil partnership);
  • A child of the deceased;
  • Any person who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family, ie a step-child;
  • A cohabitee who had been living as a partner of the deceased for at least 2 years before their death;
  • A person who immediately before the death of the deceased was financially dependent on the deceased.

How is a Claim Proven?

If you fall into one or more of these categories, work must then be done to prove that reasonable financial provision has not been left to you, and to calculate what would have been a reasonable inheritance to leave.
In deciding these factors the Court will look at the following:-

  • The value and nature of the estate. For example, the main asset may be a property that you live in, but you have been told that you need to leave as the house has been inherited by someone else. Also, if there is a large estate, it may be reasonable to share it between more people than was originally set out in the Will.
  • Your financial needs and requirements, both now and in the foreseeable future;
  • The financial needs and resources of anyone else challenging the Will or anyone else who is a beneficiary of the Will. In other words, who is in the greatest need?
  • Any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had towards any applicant or any beneficiary of the estate. For example, did they support you financially and were you dependent upon them? Was anybody else?
  • If married or civil partners, the Court will look at what the spouse would have been likely to receive had there been a divorce rather than a death, and base a settlement around that.
  • Any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary. This will likely have a strong influence on any decision to redistribute the estate.
  • Any other factors. For example, if you are the child of the deceased but the relationship was not good and you have not seen them for many years, this will be taken into account.

Practicalities of Raising a Claim

There is a strict time limit for bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Court proceedings must be issued within 6 months of the Grant of Probate being obtained. Therefore, if you have concerns about your inheritance, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

That said, Court proceedings are not always necessary. If you have a good claim, and the other parties to the Will are reasonable then it is often possible to negotiate a settlement without the need for the Court to become involved. If time permits, Alternative Dispute Resolution should be explored to see if an agreement is possible without the need for litigation.

Should you believe a Will is incorrect and has been created without mental capacity, under undue influence or by fraud, then a different approach is required and you should seek legal advice on how to proceed.


Gareth specialises in Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, and can assist where such problems have arisen. He can be contacted at gpb@beechamfisher.co.uk or on 01702 348 384.

To minimise the risk of such problems arising, Frances White can offer Will writing services to ensure your Will is up to date. She can be contacted at fw@beechamfisher.co.uk or on 01702 348 384.

Nothing in this publication should be regarded by any person as advice or in the nature of advice: it should not be relied on; and the author assumes no liability whatsoever to any person.

Close Menu

Kathryn Pavitt

Paralegal

Kathryn is an affiliate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and is a qualified Residential Conveyancing Paralegal. Since joining the firm in 2009 as a secretary, she has attained these qualifications whilst providing support to the Conveyancing and Probate departments, with the ultimate aim of qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive.

Kathryn is a mother to a young child and in her spare time she enjoys cooking and spending time with friends and family.

Val Nunn

Legal Assistant

Val has more than 30 years’ experience working in legal departments, with 25 spent as secretary then PA to Margaret Ridley.

More recently, Val has run her own body of matrimonial cases and following Margaret’s retirement as a partner, continues in this role and also as PA to Peter Fisher and Debbie Stanton.

She has extensive experience of dealing with all aspects of family matters and of assisting with high value and complex financial issues.

As well as her work, Val enjoys spending time with her family, football as a supporter of both Arsenal and Southend United, reading, entertaining and dining out.

Gareth Brazier LLB (Hons)

Associate Solicitor

Gareth qualified as a Solicitor in 2012 and has many years of civil litigation experience, having previously worked in the City of London advising major insurers on a range of issues including road traffic accidents, industrial accidents and the defence of fraudulent claims. He has experience of handling serious and complex injury matters including spinal, traumatic brain injury and amputations.

More recently Gareth has transferred these skills into providing a detailed and thorough service for both private clients and small businesses in property, contract and debt recovery disputes. Where agreement or mediation is not possible, his robust approach to litigation can secure the right outcome.

Gareth has three young children, and when not enjoying time with family he spends time on outdoor pursuits such as running, hiking and clay pigeon shooting.

Peter Fisher FRSA

Solicitor / Consultant

Peter qualified as a solicitor in 1969 and had been with the firm throughout his professional life, becoming a partner in 1971 and senior partner in 1994. Peter retired from Partnership in 2015 to become a consultant, and is pleased to take on new work and still has a significant caseload.

Peter’s speciality is family law and he is a member of Resolution (The Solicitors’ Family Law Association). He is very experienced in dealing with complex matrimonial cases, whether these involve structuring financial settlements or handling sensitive child issues. A number of his cases have been published in law reports, including a case which has stood the test of time as the benchmark for unreasonable behaviour as a ground for divorce.

Besides sitting for a number of years as a Deputy District Judge, Peter is also experienced in the preparation of wills and lasting Powers of Attorney.

Peter and his wife have three adult children and four grandchildren. For more than twenty five years Peter was a governor of Thorpe Hall School, a local independent school. A life-long Anglican, he has been much involved with the affairs of the Church of England and is a churchwarden of the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Leigh on Sea. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a keen photographer. He enjoys walking in the UK and abroad, and aged over 65 years he completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks in a very respectable time. He has also devised and walked a coast to coast from Harwich to the Bristol Channel and an up-England trek from the English Channel to Lake Windermere.

Frances White LLB (Hons)

Partner / Solicitor

Frances qualified as a solicitor in 1978, having trained with the firm’s founder and former senior partner, Mervyn Beecham. She became a partner in 1979 and has worked with the practice ever since.

A member of Avenue Baptist Church for over 45 years, Frances continues to undertake legal work for various local churches and the community. She was previously a member of the management committee which established the YMCA hostel in Southend.

Frances has a Bachelor of Laws Degree, with upper second class honours, from the University of Newcastle. She was also awarded honours on passing her final solicitor’s examinations with four distinctions.

She is a member of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). Also the Law Society’s Property Section and Private Client Section, which are representative associations for members.

Frances enjoys gardening, baking, the theatre and many types of music. She has no children but has recently become a great aunt three times over!

Debbie Stanton LLB (Hons)

Partner / Solicitor

Debbie qualified as a solicitor in 2004 since when she has specialised in Family Law with a particular interest in resolving financial aspects within divorce/co-habitation/ civil partnerships and disputes involving children. Debbie joined the firm in May 2010 and was brought into Partnership in November 2011.

As a member of Resolution, Debbie is committed to providing a personal, non-confrontational and supportive service.

Debbie’s outside interests include interior design, gardening, reading and socialising with family and friends.

Since January 2016 Debbie has been a trustee for HARP, an established charity which is committed to eradicating homelessness in Southend. As part of her role as Trustee, Debbie attends regular monthly meetings which deal with the general day to day running of the charity.