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Last year an inheritance claim brought by Heather Ilott hit the headlines after the Court of Appeal awarded her £164,000 from her mother’s £486,000 Estate. The two had been estranged for many years.

Then, in February 2016, the case of Joy Williams was reported in the press after she successfully claimed the half interest in the home she co-owned with her partner of 18 years, which would otherwise have passed to the latter’s wife, who he had never divorced.

How did Mrs Ilott and Ms Williams do this? Well, both cases were brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which enables certain categories of claimants to bring a claim against an Estate where reasonable financial provision was not provided by the deceased’s Will or under the Intestacy Rules (which govern an estate where no Will is left).

So who can bring a claim? The categories of claimants are:

  • spouses, civil partners or former spouses and civil partners who haven’t remarried;
  • co-habitants where they lived with the deceased as husband, wife or civil partner for two years prior to the deceased’s death;
  • children of the deceased (including illegitimate or adopted children) and those treated as a child of the family; and
  • anyone else who was wholly or partly maintained by the deceased.

When deciding cases, the judge will look at a broad range of factors such as the size of the estate; the financial resources of the claimant and the other beneficiaries; and any disabilities suffered by the claimant or any other beneficiaries.

Where spouses/civil partners are concerned, the judge will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the age of the claimant and the contributions made by the claimant to the welfare of the deceased’s family. For children, the judge will look at their educational and maintenance needs.

Each case tends to be unique. All sorts of factors can weigh on the decision of the judge who, if reasonable financial provision was not made for the claimant, will have to decide what would be just for the claimant to receive.


James Burrows is a partner in the dispute resolution team at Stephens Scown in Truro. The team is top ranked in the Legal 500 guide highlighting the best lawyers in the country. If you have any queries then please do contact James on 01872 265100, by email