Claims are also granted decades after the deadline
It is a common mistake that people believe that a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can only be brought within 6 months of the Grant being issued. This is not the case! The actual position is that a claim can be brought at any time (even before Grant) but if the claim is to be issued after 6 months, the courts permission is required first.
Historically, the courts have been slow to grant permission after 6 months (the guidance comes from a case called Re Salmon (1981)) which has led people to mistakenly believe that the 6 months deadline is an absolute cut-off date. This is NOT the case and there have been a number of recent cases which have reached High Court where the permission to issue a claim has been granted many years after the 6 month permission deadline …
Most recently was the case of Bhusate v Patel & Others (2019), where the High Court granted the permission to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act – despite it being issued OVER 25 YEARS after the deadline for doing so.
The deceased died in 1990, aged 72 and a claim was issued 25 years and 9 months after the time limit.
The claimant was the third wife of the deceased and had one child together.
The deceased previously had 5 other children from his first wife who sadly passed away in 1971.
The estate (which was comprised of the deceased house) was valued at £135,000 at the time of death, however the current value is in the region of £850,000
This type of situation isn’t uncommon – modern family structures are making inheritance claims increasingly likely. There is no surprise that more claims are made late and there has been a trend of cases which have been brought to High Court long after the time period has elapsed:
Sargeant v Sargeant (2018) – claim granted after 10 years
Lloyd v Ayres (2018) – claim granted after 9 years
Moffat v Moffat (2016) – claim granted after 18 years
Berger v Berger (2013) – claim granted after 6 years
Do these judgements suggest a move towards a more relaxed attitude by the courts to give permission to issue claims long after the 6 month deadline has passed? It appears so. It is important to note that the Courts have complete discretion when deciding whether to give permission to issue an Inheritance Act claim. Many of these claims start with enquiries about greater provision but often then turn to the validity or otherwise of the Will too, which then calls into question the way the Will was prepared and executed.
There is no time limitation for those challenges. Either way, the importance of a robust Will file has never been greater, as a claim can arise at any time, long after the 6 month time frame. Claims are costly and risky for an individuals intended beneficiaries , so other solutions are needed to protect the individuals wishes.
A Will may also not be enough to support and ensure that the individuals intentions are met in full. The reality is that an individuals Will may well be declared invalid if poor notes are kept and the Will is later challenged. The solution is a Will Clarity Statement , it will record all notes and explore and detail the who, the why, the when and the how, within the intended wishes of the individual.