The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has impacted nearly all aspects of our ordinary everyday lives. One consequence of this difficult time is likely to be an increase in individuals passing away without either leaving a valid will or updating their will to reflect their current wishes. This might be because they either could not get access to a solicitor or simply did not have time to make these arrangements before they passed away.
Sadly, this can make an already difficult time even more challenging for the surviving relatives/loved ones. Particularly, if they do not stand to inherit anything under the rules of intestacy (what happens where there is no valid will) or under the earlier will.
However, if this has happened to you, all hope is not necessarily lost.
If there is no valid will, the first thing to consider is whether you will be entitled to inherit the estate under the rules of intestacy (what happens where there is no valid will). These rules set out a prioritised list of the relatives who stand to inherit in those circumstances starting with the surviving spouse. If there is no spouse, the children will inherit and so on. To see if you qualify under these rules you may wish to try out the Government's helpful checklist.
If you do not qualify under these rules or under the will, you will have to either reach an agreement with those who stand to inherit or bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
If everyone is agreed, a written variation to the will (or rules of intestacy) can be prepared to reflect the terms of this agreement. This must be done within two years of your loved ones' passing to avoid adverse tax consequences. It must also contain specific wording meaning that it is usually best to have it prepared by a solicitor. However, the cost of this will be far cheaper than the alternative of Court proceedings. It is therefore always desirable to try and reach an agreement in the family, if at all possible.
If an agreement cannot be reached, you may be entitled to bring a claim for a larger share of inheritance under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This Act allows certain categories of people (including spouses, children, co-habitants and those being financially maintained) to bring a claim on the grounds that what they have been left is unreasonable, and they have a reasonable need for financial maintenance from the estate. Such a claim needs to be brought within six months of the Grant being taken out from the Probate Registry. At present, there is no extension to this deadline during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It is therefore important to seek advice quickly.
If your concern relates to your home, there may also be other options available to you which are outlined in my earlier blog.
If you would like advice on any of these issues, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist Contentious Probate team using the details below.
Originally published July 21, 2020.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.