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Insight | For Individuals

You have been left out of a Will. What now?

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What happens if someone dies, you expect to inherit only to find you have been left out of the will?

Although we, technically, have complete freedom in England and Wales to make our Will how we want, the law does require you to consider who you ought to include. Some people, if left out, have a statutory right to claim against your estate. These people include your spouse and children.

So what happens if you’re separated, but not divorced and no financial agreement or order has been reached, your spouse makes a new Will leaving you out and then dies? You can, if you fit the criteria, bring a claim against the estate for “reasonable provision”.

However, don’t sit back. If you don’t bring your claim within 6 months of the Probate Registry issuing the Grant of Probate, you will have to apply to court for permission to start your claim – and they don’t have an obligation to say yes.

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Much will depend on what you have done to try to negotiate with the estate in order to reach agreement, the steps you have taken, how promptly you acted and so on. Your own reactions and behaviour might well be taken into account- in short, it’s up to you to prove that you should be given permission outside of the time the law usually allows.

You might think that this would be easier if the time limit has only just passed, but it doesn’t work like that. The High Court has just decided that, all things considered, even a delay of 6-8 weeks might be too late. One of the grounds for refusing permission was that the estranged spouse hadn’t done enough, soon enough, to try and resolve matters or start her claim. Based on the estate value and circumstances, she may well have lost a significant chance to succeed in her claim.

The law does serve to protect- but we all have an obligation to look after ourselves too.


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