Focus on Wills, Trust, Estates and Disputes | Bringing the Law of Inheritance into the 21st Century

The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) came into force on 1 October 2014. It reformed the intestacy rules to reflect the more modern family and also changes were made to the existing Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”), under which certain categories of claimants can make a claim against someone’s estate if they have not received reasonable financial provision under a Will or intestacy. 

Although claims by spouses where there is a Will remain unaffected, the 2014 Act improves the position on intestacy for surviving spouses, meaning that fewer spouses may need to make claims under the 1975 Act. However, it may lead to an increase in claims for adult children who would otherwise have received a greater share of a deceased parent’s estate on intestacy.

Some of the key changes being made to the 1975 act

Claims by stepchildren/people treated as children
Prior to the updated law, a person could make a claim if they had been “treated as a child of the family in relation to a marriage to which the deceased was at any time a party”. This means that a person could claim against the estate of someone who was married to their parent. Although there are other classes, the most common type of claimant under this section is a stepchild.

The new Act removes the requirement for the treatment as a child to have been in relation to a marriage. The new requirement is that the deceased must have stood in a role akin to that between a parent and child, which will give rise to potential new claimants. For example, a person will be able to claim against the estate of their parent’s late partner (regardless of whether they were married) which reflects the rise in cohabiting unmarried couples. A person will also be able to claim where the person who treated them as a parent was single.

Claims by people maintained by the deceased 
Previously a person could make a claim if they were being maintained by the deceased. The new Act removes this requirement, providing they could show that the deceased contributed more to the relationship than the claimant did. It is no longer necessary to show that the deceased had formally “assumed” responsibility for the claimant’s maintenance. Instead the Court will take into account the extent to which the deceased had assumed responsibility for the claimant in deciding what constitutes reasonable financial provision.

The changes will open up this category to situations where the claimant and the deceased were mutually dependent on each other. An example of someone who might now be able to claim is a non-cohabiting couple where each had assumed some responsibility for each other, rather than the assumption of responsibility being all one way.

Claims before a Grant of Probate is issued
The new Act confirms expressly that proceedings can be issued before a Grant of Probate is obtained. This will assist claimants in estates where no one has taken out a grant (or is perhaps refusing to take out a grant thus preventing a claim being issued).

For more information please visit our page on the inheritance act 2014

Key Contact

Paula Myers