The Inheritance Act 1975 provides a route where someone can make a claim against the deceased’s estate on the basis that the deceased’s Will or intestacy does not make any or sufficient financial provision for them. It is designed to help spouses, children, civil partners, cohabitees and other surviving dependents that have not been provided for sufficiently in the will.
People who are eligible to make a will or Inheritance Act claim include:
- The spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
- A person that has lived in the same household as the deceased as their husband or wife for two years – ending immediately before the date the deceased died.
- A former spouse or former civil partner of the deceased (but not one who has formed a subsequent marriage or civil partnership).
- A child of the deceased.
- Any person (not being a child of the deceased) who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family.
- Any person who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased.
The need for the Inheritance Act has become more and more apparent as modern relationships and families are much more complex now, with many parents moving on to new partners with new responsibilities. In these cases, it is easy to see how it might be appropriate for an Inheritance Act claim to be made.
Example of a case for a new partner with children
A father of two children who leaves his wife to go on to a new partner who already has children that he then becomes financially responsible for. He then goes on to have more children with the new partner. At the event of his untimely death, he had only made provision for his first wife and children in his will, but his death left his children from his second relationship and his new partners own children with no financial support.
Example case for siblings
In a family with two grown up children, one brother was left all the assets and estate in the will and the other was left with nothing. The second had been estranged from his father for two years prior to his death due to personal differences and had therefore been written out of the will.
What to do if you want to contest a will
If any of the above apply to you and you feel that you have a good case to make a claim, there are several routes to take the next steps. An important thing to remember is that these situations will be highly emotionally charged as everyone involved will be dealing with the bereavement as well as trying to sort out the will.
These situations are traditionally resolved through solicitors and litigation, however, all parties to Inheritance Act disputes are required by the Practice Direction – Pre-action Conduct (2009) to consider whether some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) might enable them to settle the matter without starting proceedings. Mediation is used more and more in Inheritance Act disputes and was in fact, successful in the above two case studies to reach agreement between all parties without going to court.
Reasons to Mediate Inheritance Disputes
- Mediation is a much faster route, as it can be arranged in a matter of weeks rather than months.
- Save money, by choosing mediation you will save yourself the litigation costs, which can easily spiral out of control in inheritance cases meaning you could potentially waste much of the inheritance amounts to solicitors.
- Reduce the stress with this more informal and personal approach. People suffering from bereavement can avoid the ordeal of litigation with mediation.
- The people who would be involved would all be family or ‘new’ family, so the approach of mediation works better to preserve or restore family relationships.
- The mediation approach is more about finding compromise where all parties will be happy with the result rather than a straight ‘winner or loser’ situation.
How does Inheritance Act Mediation Work?
Mediation for inheritance disputes works in the same way as family mediation, in that resolutions to the disputes can be reached through discussion and problem solving with all parties feeling heard. The parties arrange to have a mediation session with a trained mediator who is an impartial expert in resolving disputes and will not only listen to all parties equally but will through experience be able to suggest solutions that could resolve things for everyone with no further dispute. The mediator is primarily a facilitator, not a judge, his or her aim is to guide and encourage the parties to talk to one another and to work through the issues in dispute to see whether it is possible to reach an amicable settlement or resolution.
Generally a mediation is arranged for half a day or a whole day and solicitors are frequently present which means if agreement is reached a legally binding document can be drawn up t the end of the mediation. Sometimes parties sit in the same room but often they are in separate rooms for much of the time as tensions can often be very high, in a dispute that may have been rumbling on for some time.
Can we help?
Here at Progressive Mediation, we are experienced in Inheritance Act mediation cases and have helped many people to resolve issues without the need to go to court. This saves money and time for all involved. If you would like further information about our mediation services, please do contact us on 0117 924 3880.