Anyone looking to claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”) must fall under a category of applicant to be able to request “reasonable financial provision”. Most of the categories of applicants limit claimants to family members of the Deceased - for example spouse, civil partner and children. However, section 1(1)(e) allows for those being maintained by the Deceased to apply under the Act for provision. However, the term “maintenance” is not defined in the Act. So what does maintenance actually mean, and are there unlikely applicants who could benefit under an estate? Could this increase in light of the global pandemic?
The term maintenance in the Oxford Dictionary is defined as “The provision of financial support for a person's living expenses, or the support so provided.” This seems in line with the approach adopted by the courts. Although not defined specifically within the Act, the case law surrounding the term provides an insight into what the court is likely to determine as being maintained.
To summarise what is considered as “maintenance”, it should not afford the claimant a lavish lifestyle, but they should also not suffer in poverty on the basis that the Deceased failed to provide some provision from their estate. The level of maintenance will vary on each matter’s facts.
It is likely that the economic downturn as caused by COVID-19 is likely to increase people’s dependency on others, bearing in mind that 600,000 job roles have been lost to the pandemic. On top of those are workers who have been or are still furloughed, who typically received only 80% of their normal wage. Those with mortgages and other liabilities have to turn to those who can afford to assist with payments. A backlog on NHS waiting lists and the number of Wills created in haste in the past few months could lead to significantly more cases made under the Act based on maintenance rather than on traditional family bonds.
We can assist you in placing a caveat on the estate, but you should seek advice on your claim as soon as possible after entering the caveat. This is because it may not be long before your caveat is challenged, and it is important to have an idea of whether you should pursue your claim and how to move forward with your claim.
Our contentious probate team specialises in all aspects of contentious probate and is consistently ranked in the top tier of The Legal 500. The team is headed up by Robert Weston, who is listed in The Legal 500 as a “leading individual” and was the instructing solicitor for the successful party in the landmark judgment of Walker v Badmin. Robert, together with Suzanne Lee and Andrew Chandler are all full members of The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and represent clients both nationwide and abroad in both bringing and defending claims.
If you have a contentious probate matter which you would like to discuss with a specialist solicitor with a view to instructing mfg Solicitors LLP, please visit https://www.mfgsolicitors.com/site/services-for-me/contentious-probate/ for further information and contact details.