The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows those who have been financially dependent on a person who dies to seek financial provision to be made for them from the deceased’s estate if that person has not made appropriate provision for them in their will.
An application under the Act must be made within six months of probate being granted, otherwise it is necessary to obtain the permission of the court in order to proceed with an application.
In a recent case, a woman in her 80s sought the permission of the court to make an application for financial provision under the Act more than six years after the death of her husband in 2005.
The man’s estate was valued at approximately £7 million. It included shares in a family company, properties in Arizona and London, and a house in Surrey in which his widow lived. Arrangements were made to provide an income for life for her, but early in the administration of the estate (which was entrusted to her sons) she expressed misgivings about the level of income she could expect to receive. Although she did take legal advice at the time, it is not clear that she was advised that she could make a claim under the Act.
However, the fact is that she did not do so. In his judgment, Lord Justice Black said, “…what is clear is that she was actively interested in 2005/2006 when she consulted her own accountants and solicitors and showed herself able to pursue her interests should she have wished to do so. She says that she continued not to agree with the way in which the sons handled matters thereafter but the reality is that for years she took no steps and the respondents continued actively to manage the estate, and in particular the company, without the expectation of a challenge to the will, whilst the appellant continued to live in the Surrey property as she wished to do. In my view, it would not be appropriate, in all of these circumstances, for the appellant to be permitted to make her claim six years after the expiry of the time limit in the Act.”