Making a claim against a loved one’s estate under the Inheritance Act 1975 can be a lengthy process with matters sometimes taking 1 – 2 years to conclude.
As most clients who make such claims are in real financial need, it is worthwhile considering whether an application to the Court for an interim payment from the estate should be made to ease the financial pressure in the meantime.
Who gets an Interim Payment?
The Court can order the estate to make an interim payment to a claimant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”).
To succeed the claimant must show they are in “immediate need of financial assistance” at the time of the application for interim payment and the Court has provided useful guidance on what that means. in the recent case of Weisz v Weisz (2019).The judge confirmed in this case that it is for the court to decide on a case by case basis whether any of the claimant’s expenses are considered to be an “immediate need” and that an order can also be made to assist the claimant with payment of their legal fees either by way of a lump sum or a monthly payment.
The Judge’s Decision
The Weisz case was being pursued by Sarah Weisz as the widow of her late husband who had left a net estate exceeding £4m from which her income from a trust in the estate had ceased after she started her claim. The case was defended by the deceased’s adult children from a previous relationship.
Sarah succeeded in her interim application under the Inheritance Act and the judge decided she was entitled to receive £5,200 per month (backdated to the date of the application) together with a sum of £55,587 to cover her legal fees. In addition the estate was ordered to pay Sarah a further £9,000 per month for two months after an initial hearing due to take place in spring 2020 to enable her time to make a further application for interim payments thereafter if needed.
Sarah had to give an undertaking to the court to repay any amount of these sums the judge may consider reasonable to repay at the time of the trial (if any) and the estate had to give undertakings not to make any further distributions to the children until Sarah’s claim had been resolved.
The children were ordered to pay Sarah’s costs of the interim application and given the judge commented on how high the costs were simply for an interim application it is safe to assume this costs order alone would have been a bitter pill for the children to swallow let alone seeing the size of the estate being reduced by the monthly and lump sum amounts they were ordered to pay to Sarah.
Lessons to be learned
This case shows that interim payment applications can succeed in Inheritance Act cases and that therefore estates should consider whether to consent to such a payment request very carefully or risk losing an application and being faced with a large costs bill, on top of the interim payments which need to be paid for several months whilst the case continues..
We would always encourage potential clients to call us, as specialists in such claims, to ensure that we can maximise for them the benefit the Act can provide and assist in alleviating their financial difficulties following a loved one’s death.