How long have I got to bring an Inheritance Act claim?

Jan Samuel

The usual time limit for bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act is 6 months from the day probate was granted. However, there have been a flurry of cases suggesting the six month limit could be disapplied in certain circumstances.

In March 2019, Samuels reported on a warning given by a High Court Judge in the case of Cowan v Foreman & Others. The case involved a widow who issued a claim against her late husband’s estate seventeen months out of time.

The Claimant argued that she was not made aware of the six month time limit and that she had failed to grasp the disposition of the estate under her late husband’s Will.

The Judge criticised the parties' suggestion of a “standstill agreement” between the parties, allowing time for an extension stating that it was for the Court to decide on acceptable time period in which cases should be brought for inheritance claims, not the parties.

Permission for the Claimant to make the application out of time was refused, the Judge stating that his decision was consistent with the overriding objective on rule compliance in the Civil Procedure Rules.

However, in the subsequent case of Bhusate the Court dismissed the use of the Civil Procedure Rules when considering discretionary powers in inheritance act claims. In this case  the  Court granted permission to the Claimant to bring a claim despite the application having been made more than 25 years after the six month limitation period. The Court said that the Claimant was “effectively powerless” to do anything sooner in the absence of agreement or engagement by her stepchildren.

As a result of the outcome of the Bhusate case it is understood that the lawyers acting for the Claimant in Cowan v Foreman  have sought permission to appeal.

The case has sparked widespread interest because of its condemnation of stand-still agreements  which have been used for years, and the outcome of the appeal will be closely followed by lawyers dealing with 1975 Act claims.

If you need to bring a claim about a will or inheritance, we can help. Samuels Solicitors has been helping clients bring claims in relation to wills for many years, and has been able to resolve disputes for many clients.

Contact us if you have a dispute about a will or a dispute about you inheritance, for a free intial discussion about how we can help.