FAQs - Inheritance Act | Irwin Mitchell

Inheritance Act FAQs

If you have been left out of a loved one's Will or not provided for if they died without a Will, you may be able to make a claim. This can seem like a daunting process, so we've provided answers to many common questions on the Inheritance Act and what it means for you.

How Do I Contest A Will Under The Inheritance Act?

The first step is to seek legal advice. We will begin by carrying out a free initial assessment of your claim. Then we’ll go through your claim with you in detail and give you our preliminary advice.

The next step will be for us to write to the opponent(s). The opponent(s) will be the people who are legally entitled to benefit from the deceased person’s estate (e.g. the beneficiaries of their Will). 

It is very rare for claims under the Act to go all the way to a Court trial.  Claims are usually settled out of Court, either through negotiations between the lawyers or at mediation. This involves an independent mediator going between the parties to negotiate a deal. We work with leading mediators in this field and we will be able to recommend someone suitable for your claim.

Who Can Contest A Will Under The Inheritance Act?

To make a claim under the Act, you must have had one of the following relationships with someone who has died:

  • Husband/Wife or civil partner
  • Ex-Husband/Wife or civil partner
  • Child
  • A person who was treated as a child by the person who has died (e.g. a stepchild)
  • Someone who was dependent on the person who has died in some way (e.g. through financial maintenance, providing a home, etc.)

If you are unsure whether you are eligible to claim under the Inheritance Act, we will be happy to carry out a free initial assessment of your claim.

Is It Possible To Contest The Will Of Someone That I Am Not Related To?

Yes. You can make a claim even if you are not related to the person who has died. 

For example, you can contest the Will of a deceased person if you had lived with them for two years or more, if you were treated by them as if you were their child or if you were financially dependent on them in any way.

We will be happy to provide expert advice on making a claim in this instance and discuss your personal circumstances in relation to the deceased.

Do You Offer 'No Win No Fee' Agreements To Contest A Will?

We will act on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis wherever we can.

Once we have carried out our free initial assessment of your claim, we will tell you whether we are able to offer you a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement.

If we are unable to offer you a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement then we will explain why and discuss the other options for funding your claim with you.   Even if we cannot offer you this from the start, we will usually offer to cap our fees at a certain level for the initial stages of your claim with a view to moving onto a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement later if possible.

We will also discuss with you insurance to cover the risk of losing your costs.  Irwin Mitchell operates a market leading Support4Disputes insurance scheme (underwritten by Allianz) which covers you for the risk of losing.  The insurance premium is not payable up front and not payable at all if you lose. 

Will I Have To Go To Court?

Probably not. We have vast experience of dealing with claims under the Inheritance Act, and it is very rare for these claims to go to court.

In most cases, we are able to successfully negotiate a resolution with the other parties involved. This might involve negotiation through writing or by phone, or mediation (where a specialist independent mediator will go between the parties to try and negotiate a deal).  

Is There A Time Limit To Contest A Will?

The most important thing is to act as quickly as possible once you realise that you might have a claim.

The law says that any claim under the Inheritance Act should be issued at the court within six months of the date that the first Grant of Representation is issued.  This is obtained from the Probate Registry by the people who are dealing with the estate.

The Grant of Representation might be a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no Will).

Even if more than six months have passed since the Grant of Representation was issued, you might still be able to pursue your claim. The courts have power to extend the deadline if it is right to do so.

Again, the most important thing is to act as quickly as possible once you realise that you might need to contest a Will. Speak to our expert team to discover the best course of action to take if you think you have a claim to make.

Do I Have A Right To Inherit From My Parents?

In England and Wales, a person is free to leave their estate to whoever they choose.  However, if your parents have not made reasonable provision for you, then you may be able to bring a claim against their estate under the Inheritance Act.

If your parents lived elsewhere than England and Wales then different rules might apply.  We will be happy to provide more information on this matter upon request.  

Can I Discuss My Claim With You Before I Decide To Pursue It?

Absolutely. We offer a free initial consultation in all potential claims. We will discuss your claim with you and we will consider any relevant papers that you might have.

As part of the initial consultation, we will provide you with our preliminary advice regarding your claim and explain the options that are available to you. We are always happy to answer questions about your claim.

Can I Make A Claim If There Is No Will?

Yes.  Even if the person concerned died without a Will, you can still make a claim under the Inheritance Act if you had one of the following relationships with someone who has died:

  • Husband/Wife or civil partner
  • Ex-Husband/Wife or civil partner
  • Child
  • A person who was treated as a child by the person who has died (e.g. a stepchild)
  • Someone who was dependent on the person who has died in some way (e.g. through financial maintenance, providing a home, etc.).  
I Was Dependent On Someone Who Has Died, Can I Contest Their Will?

Yes. If you were dependent on someone who has died then you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance Act.

Examples of dependency might include situations where the person who has died was providing you with a home, or where they were maintaining you financially in some way.

Will I Need A Barrister?

You are unlikely to need a Barrister in the early stages of your claim. 

We will advise you as and when we consider that it is appropriate to involve a Barrister in your claim.  We work with some of the leading Barristers in this specialist area and we will recommend someone who suits your particular circumstances. As we deal with lots of these claims, we are able to negotiate preferential fee rates for you. 

What Can I Claim?

This depends on how you were related to the person who has died.

If you were the Husband/Wife or civil partner of someone who has died, then you are able to claim such provision from their estate as it is reasonable for you to receive in all the circumstances. This is a generous level of provision.

If you fall within any other category of claimant, (e.g. a child, partner, etc) then you are entitled to claim what is reasonable for you to receive for your maintenance.

Can I Claim If I Receive Something From The Estate Already?

Yes, but what you are already entitled to will be taken into account in deciding what it is reasonable for you to receive.

Can I Make A Claim On Behalf Of A Child?

Yes. If someone who is under the age of 18 has a claim, then they will need someone suitable to act on their behalf.

We can discuss this with you and explain what is involved in acting on behalf of a child.

What Issues Are Relevant To My Claim?

The law sets out the matters that the courts must consider in dealing with claims under the Inheritance Act. We can use the same factors to assess your claim and to seek resolution with the other parties. The matters that must be considered in all claims are:

1. The financial resources and financial needs of everyone involved (both now and in the future).

2. Any obligations that the deceased person had towards you, anyone else who is claiming, or anyone who is legally entitled to benefit from the estate.

3. The size and nature of the estate.

4. Whether anyone involved suffers from any physical or mental disability.

5. Any other relevant matters.

The law also sets out other factors for consideration, depending on your circumstances. For example, if you are the Husband/Wife or civil partner of the person who has died, then the court will consider issues including your age and the length of your marriage. We will discuss the issues that are relevant to your specific claim with you.

I Am An Executor Or Beneficiary Of A Will That Is Being Contested. What Should I Do?

If you are the executor of a Will or estate that is being contested, then you should take a neutral stance. However, you should still take legal advice, as you will be required to provide information regarding the estate and you may have to play a part in court proceedings.

If you are a beneficiary of a Will or estate that is being contested, then we will be happy to provide you with help and advice.

We have a vast amount of experience of defending Will dispute claims as well as pursuing them and we will be happy to carry out a free initial assessment of the claim and to discuss the options that are available to you.

I Am An Executor Or Beneficiary Of A Will That Is Being Contested. What Should I Do?

If you are the executor of a Will or estate that is being contested, then you should take a neutral stance. However, you should still take legal advice, as you will be required to provide information regarding the estate and you may have to play a part in court proceedings.

If you are a beneficiary of a Will or estate that is being contested, then we will be happy to provide you with help and advice.

We have a vast amount of experience of defending Will dispute claims as well as pursuing them and we will be happy to carry out a free initial assessment of the claim and to discuss the options that are available to you.

Will I Have To Pay My Opponent's Legal Fees If I Lose My Claim?

If you withdraw your claim before court proceedings are issued, then there is very little risk of you having to pay your opponent’s legal fees.

If the time comes to issue court proceedings in your claim, then we will discuss the risks with you. It is likely that we will be able to arrange insurance to protect you against the risk of having to pay your opponent’s costs.