The Inheritance Act - second marriages and step-children

The recent case of Weisz v Weisz (2019 EWHC 3101 (Fam)) illustrates the common issues that can occur between a second spouse and their step children following a death.

The brief facts are that Mr Weisz’s estate was in the region of £4 million and his Will provided that half of the marital home be given to Mrs Weisz. Mrs Weisz made a claim under the Inheritance Act and made a further application for interim payments from her late husband’s estate to cover her expenses until the case is finally decided by the court.

Specifically Mrs Weisz sought monthly payments from the estate in the region of around £8,000 per month, a lump sum of £20,000 to discharge a debt and a payment of around £55,000 to pay for her legal fees.

The judge rejected Mrs Weisz’s claim for the money to repay the loan on the basis that this was not an immediate need. She did however receive an order that the estate pay her £5,200 a month until the case is concluded and the entirety of her legal fees in the sum of around £55,000.

Spouses are just one of the classes of individual who have a right to make a claim against a deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. For example the Act allows cohabitees of the deceased and children of the deceased to also bring a claim.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 applies whether there is a Will or not and these claims can therefore be brought in order to increase the individuals’ inheritance or where they have been left nothing. As in this case, a claim can also be brought for interim payments from the deceased’s estate while the litigation is ongoing, for example to pay for school fees or other outgoings.

The court takes into account certain specific factors in order to decide what would be reasonable for the deceased to have left to the individual making the claim. These factors include the relative financial circumstances of the claimant and the other beneficiaries, what obligations the deceased owed to the claimant and the claimant’s financial needs now and in the future.

Our team of contentious probate experts have extensive experience in Inheritance Act claims. Please email Philippa Rowley or call our Contested Wills team on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help you. Or alternatively click here for more information.