What will the Court take into account when considering an Inheritance Act claim?
When considering an Inheritance Act claim, the Court will have regard to the following matters:
(a) the financial resources and financial needs which the applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, for example are they in employment or could they find suitable employment if they looked, do they have a family of their own that they need to provide for or do they live alone with no commitments;
(b) the financial resources and financial needs which any other applicant for an order under the Act has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, for example if the applicant has a disabled sibling who requires significant care which had previously been provided by the deceased whilst the applicant lives alone, is able bodied and has a full time job, the sibling’s needs are likely to take precedence;
(c) the financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future. This applies to anyone who does not qualify to apply for provision under the Inheritance Act but to whom the deceased wanted to make a gift under their will, for example a charity or non-dependant cousin. The powers granted by the Inheritance Act will not be used by the Court to ignore the deceased’s wishes and regard must be had to what the testator actually wanted to happen to their estate;
(d) any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any applicant under the Act or towards any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased. This would apply, for example, if the deceased had undertaken to repay a loan on behalf of a dependent or to pay private school fees or tuition;
(e) the size and nature of the net estate of the deceased is considered in an Inheritance Act claim. Clearly it will be much easier to get a share of a millionaire’s estate than someone who only leaves a few thousand pounds. Equally if the main assets are investments for which there are significant penalties for early withdrawal, the Court may feel that this “loss” makes it inappropriate to cash in even though an applicant may need additional funds;
(f) any physical or mental disability of any applicant for an order under the Act or any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased. If an applicant genuinely cannot provide for themselves, as noted at (b) above their need is likely to take precedence;
(g) any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which in the circumstances of the case the Court may consider relevant. This was very persuasive in the case of the estranged daughter referred to earlier. She had made a number of attempts to reconcile with her mother over the years but these had all been rebutted by the deceased for no apparent good reason. In this case the applicant’s conduct went in her favour. If an applicant is considered to have behaved badly, for example if it was they who turned their back on the deceased or refused to provide care when the deceased needed it, this could be a factor that would lead to a Court deciding that the deceased was entitled to leave them out of their will.