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Time limits brought into question when disputing a Will

View profile for Kevin Horn
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If you are considering disputing a Will under the Inheritance Act, ordinarily you will be required to do so within six months of the Grant of Representation being issued.  The Court can grant permission to pursue a claim out of time but the criteria are strict. So, in a recent case where the Court granted a widow permission to pursue a claim 25 years out of time, that was highly unusual and unprecedented.  Kevin Horn, Disputed Wills expert in our Private Client team, reviews the case and explains how you should proceed if you are considering bringing a claim of this nature.

Bhusate v Patel and others

In this case, Mrs Bhusate was the deceased’s third wife and they had a son together.  Mr Bhusate, who had several other children from his previous marriages, passed away in 1990 at the age of 72.  He had not left a Will, so Mrs Bhusate had to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, which was done in the August of the following year. 

Given that she could not speak, read or write English, Mrs Bhusate was unable to understand her role as administrator of the estate or her rights as a beneficiary which, under the intestacy rules, included a statutory legacy and a one half share of the residuary estate.  The only way she could receive her legacy however was through the sale of the property.  The Judge ruled that Mr Bhusate’s children from his previous marriages obstructed the sale of Mrs Bhusate’s property by failing to agree a sale price and then taking no further action until Mrs Bhusate brought her claim. 

The Judge considered merits of the claim and the reasons why the claim wasn’t pursued and determined that Mrs Bhusate could have been left homeless in the absence of agreement with the other beneficiaries and granted her permission to bring her claim out of time. 

“While this ruling is unprecedented, it is an important reminder that a Judge in cases such as this will consider all of the facts on an individual basis,” explains Kevin.  “Whilst Judges are bound to a large extent to follow decisions taken by other Judges, they have a degree of discretion and ultimately the decision in any given case has to be based on the merits and also the needs of those involved.  One element in this case that could have changed the outcome is that Mr Bhusate died intestate.  If he had made a Will, this situation might have been different as the outcome of the administration process would have been determined not by the intestacy rules but by the provision made in the Will.  Mrs Bhusate may still have had a valid claim since under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you can bring a claim if you feel reasonable financial provision hasn’t been made for you in the Will of the deceased”.

This was a claim for permission to apply out of time for provision from an estate where there was no Will. Had Mr Bhusate made a Will Mrs Bhusate might have considered challenging it’s validity, which is an altogether different kind of claim.  If there is reason to believe that the deceased at the time of making a Will lacked capacity, was subjected to undue pressure or did not fully understand the provision the Will then there may be the basis for a claim. In addition, if the deceased made verbal assurances during their lifetime which were not honoured in the Will then you could have a claim.

If you are considering bringing a claim against an estate, whether or not there is a Will, or you want to challenge the validity of a Will, it is crucial that you receive legal advice to understand the strength of your claim, your rights and entitlements.  Kevin has vast experience and success in helping his clients make a claim, providing advice with understanding, compassion and with your best interests at the heart of proceedings.  You can contact him today on 01329 288121 or email kevinhorn@warnergoodman.co.uk to discuss your own situation and find out your next steps.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.