inheritance act claim time limit - older man sitting in a chair reviewing document for a Inheritance 1975 Act claim

If you are an eligible claimant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, it is essential you are aware of the time limit within which to bring your “1975 Act” claim.

What is the time limit for bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975?

This time limit is set out in section 4 of the 1975 Act, which says:

“An application for an order under section 2 of this Act shall not, except with the permission of the court, be made after the end of the period of six months from the date on which representation with respect to the estate of the deceased is first taken out (but nothing prevents the making of an application before such representation is first taken out).”

Briefly, section 2 of the 1975 Act sets out the types of order the court can make to successful claimants (such as the award of a lump sum payment). “Representation” means the grant of representation such as the grant of probate or the grant of letters of administration in an intestate estate.

Therefore, if a grant is dated say 1 March 2021, a 1975 claimant has just 6 months from 1 March 2021 within which to issue court proceedings applying for an order under the Act. If a claimant issues court proceedings beyond the expiry of the 6-month time limit, he or she is out of time to pursue a 1975 Act claim. This is a strict time limit.

Why are there strict time limits for bringing a 1975 Act claim?

The strict time limit is designed to bring certainty for personal representatives and beneficiaries alike where 1975 Act claims have been threatened against a deceased’s estate.

It also links with section 20 of the 1975 Act, which states that personal representatives shall not be liable for having distributed any part of the estate after the end of the six-month period from the date of the grant of representation.

When should an estate be distributed?

It is good practice not to distribute the estate immediately after the six-month time limit has expired. It is prudent to wait at least ten months in total from the date of the grant. This is because 1975 Act claimants sometimes issue court proceedings just before the six-month time limit expires and then have a period of four months within which to “serve” (or deliver) the court claim. Claimants can leave it very late to serve proceedings, but they are permitted to do so by the court rules.

If 1975 Act proceedings are served, the estate cannot then be distributed until the claim is resolved either by way of judgment of the court, or terms of settlement recorded in a court order. The personal representatives are also obliged to act neutrally throughout.

What to do if you have a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975?

If you consider you have a potential 1975 Act claim, we recommend you contact us as soon as possible to discuss it, before time runs out.

The next article in this series will address extending the time limit when bringing a 1975 Act claim. For more information on 1975 Inheritance Act, please read the following article:

This is the first of two articles. The second article looks at Inheritance 1975 Act – extending the time limit for bringing a claim.