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Inheritance Disputes

Issues around Wills and inheritance are one of the most sensitive areas of law. Disputes occur all too regularly, and while many of them can be misunderstandings, or may be resolved through negotiation, some will go to court.

These kinds of disputes need sensitive handling by experienced legal professionals to give the parties the best chance of a satisfactory outcome. The aim throughout will be to try and resolve the issue in a way that minimises rancour and maximises agreement. However, this is not always possible for a variety of reasons, and a legal representative in such cases will work to ensure their client’s interests are best represented.

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Why might inheritance disputes occur?

The most common reason why an inheritance dispute will arise is where a party disputes the accuracy or overall validity of a Will. Alternatively, they may feel that inadequate provision has been made for them out of the estate of a loved one. If an estate isn’t being administered in an appropriate way by the executor or administrator then this can lead to disputes. Delays may also cause disagreements to arise, particularly if a party feels that the disbursement of assets is taking longer than it should.

In many instances, however, disputes arise because the deceased hadn’t made a Will or that a Will was made but is invalid, perhaps because of procedural irregularity.

Another source of dispute and disagreement is regarding the intestacy rules. When someone dies without a Will, the assets will pass to the closest living relative according to the rules of intestacy. In some instances, people close to the deceased such as an unmarried partner or another dependant, may feel that this is unfair.

If someone was dependant on the deceased prior to their death but haven’t been left enough money in order to support themselves, they may seek redress through the law. In such instances, some protection is offered through the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

What is the Inheritance Act and who can make a claim?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is a legal act of parliament that makes it possible for some people to make a legitimate claim from the estate of a deceased person.

An Inheritance Act claim may be by spouses, civil partners, children cohabitees, and certain other classes of dependants who were dependant on the deceased prior to his or her death but have not been reasonably been provided for either in the deceased’s Will or through the intestacy rules.

The Act states that a surviving spouse (including civil partners) is entitled to such financial support as is deemed reasonable in their particular circumstances, not just what’s required for their maintenance. In practical terms, this means that a spouse or civil partner is effectively entitled to enjoy a comparable standard of living to that which they enjoyed before their partner’s death. Anyone else who wishes to make a claim under the Inheritance Act may be entitled to reasonable financial provision for their maintenance, as long as the estate can provide it.

In most cases, inheritance disputes can and should be resolved through informal arrangements or alternative dispute resolution (ARD). Richardson Lissack is experienced at negotiating for our clients and will look to resolve issues in the most cost-effective way.

Prevention is better than a cure

How Richardson Lissack can help

Our lawyers are available to assist you and provide legal advice.

Contact London 020 3753 5352 or Manchester 0161 834 7284. Alternatively you can email info@richardsonlissack.co.uk

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