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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a ‘marked increase’ in the number of claims being brought against estates and in particular, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependants) Act 1975.
Claims are being made by applicants arguing that they have not received reasonable financial provision from an estate, and require maintenance. Following the case of Ilott v Blue Cross , the number of adult children making such claims had dropped, but now appears to be on the rise again.
An applicant’s financial needs and resources are usually examined to determine where there can be considered a need for provision. In circumstances where an applicant has been left out of a will deliberately because at the time their family member considered them not to be in need of support, many applicants can now credibly claim their financial circumstances could have changed in the light of the pandemic.
The pandemic is causing hardships in the form of job losses, reduction in income for the self-employed, housing need and increase in debts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, adult children who might not have brought a claim prior to 2020, now find themselves struggling financially and bringing a claim against a relative’s (usually parent’s) estate.
Other processes of probate are being impacted by the pandemic.
A high number of deaths, particularly among older people, is causing a severe backlog of properties set to be sold as part of the probate process.
An increase in demand for the services of surveyors and estate agents, coupled with the practical complexities of social distancing within the sales process has led to lengthy probate property sales delays.
Caroline Watson, director of Probate Property People, commented on the pressures within the system:
“Currently there’s a backlog of an extra three or four months compared to normal times
“You can put properties on the market but you can’t legally complete a sale until the grant of probate is completed.
“It’s added a lot of stress to what’s already stressful.”