We recently made a successful inheritance claim for a child.
Miss B, a 13 year-old girl, succeeded in claiming financial provision from the estate of her late father who had died intestate without a will. Her claim was made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
As her father had failed to execute a Will his estate was to be divided equally between his 7 children (including Miss B). However, all but one of the remaining children were adults and not financially dependant upon him.
Miss B on the other hand was receiving regular financial assistance from her father during their weekly contact visits, having separated from her mother.
The Executors of the estate had failed to distribute Miss B’s share of the intestate estate prior to her coming to us for advice some 6 years after her father's death.
On our advice, an inheritance claim was made against Mr B’s estate, involving the immediate commencement of court proceedings to protect her legal position.
The estate had been valued for probate purposes at around £210,000 but unfortunately a number of interim distributions had taken place during the 6 year period. This meant that the only real asset remaining in the estate was a property. This was stated to have been sold to one of the adult children but he had yet to pay for it. The net estate available for distribution was therefore around £54,000.
It was not possible to agree terms of settlement before service of court proceedings but the parties did agree to stay (suspend) the proceedings for a period of four months to enable them to engage in mediation in order to stop legal costs escalating.
At the mediation it was apparent that a negotiated settlement was desirable as there were limited assets in the estate which bwere in danger of being swallowed by legal costs, which would benefit no one. We were therefore able to agree satisfactory terms of settlement.
When bringing an inheritance claim for a child it is necessary to have any financial settlement approved by the court so that a judge can consider whether the settlement is in the best interests of the child.
This case is an example of the importance of balancing the merits of a case (here they were very good as Miss B was not only a minor child but was also financially dependant on her late father) with the reality of the limited funds in an estate. Mediation allowed the parties to reach a settlement which avoided the costs that would be incurred to take the case to a contested hearing.