Many people choose to plan for the inevitable and make a will specifying how they would ultimately like their estate to be distributed on death. For various reasons, some people may wish to exclude individuals or family members from benefiting from their estate. However, people are unaware of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This act enables the Court to vary the distribution of a deceased person’s estate, contrary to their wishes (if a will was made) or the Intestacy Rules (where there is no will) for certain family members and dependants who have been excluded or have been left a smaller proportion than anticipated or required.
You are eligible to make a claim under the Act if you were:
An example of the facts provided above can be found in the example below, as this clearly demonstrates the importance of the 1975 acts in relation to any potential claims reliant upon it.
Following the death of Amy Winehouse her former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, is set to bring a £1 million claim against her estate under the Inheritance Act 1975. It is believed that Mr Fielder-Civil is pursuing both a lump sum and a monthly allowance against the estate of Ms Winehouse to which Amy’s family has stated clearly he is not deserving of.
Amy Winehouse died in 2011 at the age of 27 without ever having a successfully executed will. Amy’s assets, which totalled approximately £3 million, went to her parents under the intestacy rules.
In retrospect, Ms Winehouse two-year marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil, which ended through divorce in 2009, included provision which saw Mr Fielder-Civil entitled to a lump sum of £250,000. Considering industry practice in relation to divorce proceedings, this lump sum awarded would typically prevent any further claim being brought against either party following the divorce settlement, this is known as a ‘clean break’. Consequently, the onerous will be upon Mr Fielder-Civil and his representatives to demonstrate the validity of any potential claim against the estate of Ms Winehouse further to the £250,000 received during the divorce settlement, which will be an unlikely outcome if the sum was specified as a ‘clean break’.
In addition, there is also a six-month limit when bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975. With the statutory time limit having already lapsed, Mr Fielder-Civil will have to seek permission from the Court in order to be eligible to bring such a claim against the estate of Ms Winehouse. Consideration should also be drawn towards whether the remaining value of the estate is of sufficient value for such a claim.
If the Court were to rule in favour of Mr Fielder-Civil’s claim then in light of industry practice, the Court will typically only ever award either a lump sum payment or monthly allowance and not both which is being sought.
A will is one of the most important documents you can put in place during your lifetime to ensure that your property and assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes on death, and it is worth ensuring that this is done correctly.
For any advice on estate planning and drafting or reviewing your will, please contact Vassos Vassou, solicitor and Head of Private Client on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 016 9336.
Article by Shola Adebayo