On the 1st October 2014, the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 will come into force.
The Act is a result of a six year project by the Law Commission, based on studies which have suggested that between half and two thirds of the adult population do not have a Will and those who need one most are, in fact, the least likely to have one.
Amongst other things, the Act makes changes to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. That act allows certain family members and dependants to apply to court for reasonable financial provision from the estate, under the Inheritance Act. This applies whether or not the deceased made a Will.
Firstly, the law now makes it clear that a claim can be brought under the Inheritance Act before a grant of representation is made, something that was unclear before.
It has always been the case that only certain categories of people can bring a claim under the Inheritance Act, and the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act will widen that category in relation to children. Currently, a child of the deceased is entitled to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act, as is a step child providing that the deceased was married to their parent at the time of death. From the 1st October the requirement for the relationship to be have been acquired by marriage will be removed – the deceased must ‘stand in a role akin to that between a parent and a child’.
Helen Dandridge, solicitor, commented:
“The obvious situation where this would occur would be in relation to a cohabiting couple where there are children of one cohabitant only, from a previous relationship. However, it could also apply to children who are looked after by family members or kinship carers; as long as they have been acting in a parental role at the time of their death.
“In reality, it is not envisaged that this will create a floodgate of new applicants as there has always been the ‘catch all’ provision that “any person… who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the deceased” can apply for financial provision.”
Further changes are made to the ‘balance sheet’ requirement for applicants who apply under the catch all provision referred to above. Currently, an applicant under that category had to show the deceased was “making a substantial contribution in money or money’s worth towards the reasonable needs of that person”. In reality that meant the applicant had to show the deceased contributed more to the relationship than the applicant did. The requirement from October will be simply to show the deceased made a substantial contribution to the applicant’s reasonable needs.
Finally, there will also be changes to the matters to which the court must have regard to when considering an application under this Act. An applicant who was maintained by the deceased immediately prior to their death can apply irrespective of whether the deceased had formally assumed that responsibility. The court is directed to consider that as a factor but it is no longer a threshold criteria for making a claim.
Finally, Helen commented:
“Despite the new Act being designed to bring intestacy and inheritance laws more in line with the needs and dynamics of modern families, the Act does still stop short of all the reforms recommended by the Law Commission, particularly in relation to cohabitants.”
Alternatively, if you have any questions in relation to inheritance disputes, please contact our Contentious Probate team free on 0843 289 4640.