Latest insights from our experts
October 2014 changes to inheritance laws
From 1 October 2014, new rules apply to certain types of inheritance procedures and to claims around disputed wills. We set out below the most significant changes.
Inheritance Act claims
Family members and “dependants” of someone who died can bring claims under the Inheritance Act where they believe the will (or where there is no rule, the laws on intestacy – see below) do not make reasonable financial provision for them.
Change 1 – Time limits to bringing claims
Generally, claims must be brought within 6 months of the date a grant of probate is taken out in respect of the deceased. It used to be the case that a claim could be brought before the grant was issued. This has now changed meaning potential claimants do not have to wait for personal representatives – which in some cases could delay claims by months or years.
Change 2 – Property held as joint tenants and claims out of time
Whilst claims could be brought out of time (i.e. more than 6 months after the date of the grant) at the discretion of a judge some important remedies under the Act became unavailable to a claimant. If property was held by the deceased and another as “joint tenants” (i.e. where the survivor takes the entire property automatically), that property could not form part of the estate for the purposes of a claim. Often the house is the most valuable asset in the estate. This provision has now been changed to ensure claims which are allowed in out of time can include property jointly owned immediately before death.
Change 3 – “child” of the family
The Act allowed claims by people who were treated as children of the deceased (for example children not officially adopted) but only if they were treated as such because of a marriage of the deceased. This requirement has now been removed so anyone treated as a child of the deceased, regardless of the reason can potentially bring a claim.
When someone dies without making a will they die “intestate”. Complex rules deal with how the estate of the intestate person should be split up.
The new rules aim to simplify these complicated provisions. However, the reality is that the rules on intestacy will rarely, if ever, deal with your estate in the way in which you would like. It is for that reason we always advocate preparing a will and ensuring that you review and update it from time to time.
Significant events (e.g. changes in your finances, births, deaths, marriages and divorces in your family) are moments for you to reflect on whether your will needs amending. Remember that marriage after a will has been prepared will invalidate the will unless you make it in contemplation of marriage.