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Potential Inheritance Act Claims: To sell or not to sell?

Potential Inheritance Act Claims: To sell or not to sell?

As Administrators we can often be faced with a situation where a third party brings a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. As part of their claim they might often suggest that the property is the asset to which they should be entitled – not necessarily money. This results in a situation where the administrator must decide whether to proceed with an early sale to maximise the available resource for the estate, or proceed with a sale and risk potential proceedings by the Claimant to prevent the sale from going ahead until their claim has been dealt with.

In the case of Williams –v- Seals [2014] EWHC 3708 (Ch.) the court considered the issue and whether the property should be preserved pending the outcome of the claim. In this case the Claimant had registered a caution against the property and the court considered whether in the particular circumstances of the case it should be removed to allow the estate to proceed with the sale. The court indicated that the caution should be removed if the Claimant’s case had no prospect of success. If the claim was capable of success the court must look at the specific factors. In this particular case the property had been owned jointly by the deceased and his sister. This was considered particularly relevant because allowing the estate to delay the sale may in turn prejudice the sister as co-owner. The court also considered the fact that as the Claimant had limited funds it would be impossible for him to buy out the sister’s share or to develop the property even if the court did decide to transfer the deceased’s share to him.

This case shows the difficulties in dealing with potential Inheritance Act claims where those claims are in respect of a specific property rather than a share of the estate in general. The case gives good guidance on factors the court might consider.

If you are considering contesting a will, please contact Amanda Melton, our expert in contentious probate on 01494 790047 or email amanda.melton@ibblaw.co.uk