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Surviving spouses and civil partners are in a special position in that the court may well order that they should have a "fair share" of the family's assets which, in a wealthy family, may be a great deal more than only sufficient to live on. Ex-wives (and indeed ex-husbands) are also entitled to claim so long as they have not remarried. They are quite likely to receive something if there was a maintenance order at the time of death, but not if there had been a "clean break" at the time of the divorce.
Other members of the family who were dependant on the deceased, e.g. children, may claim a share of the estate if the Will does not give them one, but they are not likely to receive a higher sum than "maintenance". "Children", incidentally, can be any age at the time of their parent's death, not just minors.
The other main class of person who can claim under the Act are cohabitees -- defined as living as husband and wife for 2 years or more at the time of the death. In this case, the cohabitee does not need to have been strictly dependant on the deceased in order to receive provision.
The main purpose of making a Will is, of course, to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. If there is a possibility that the provisions of your Will may fall foul of the Inheritance Act, yet you have good reason for what you do, you can set out your reasons in a special document called an Inheritance Act Statement. For instance, if you have given their "inheritance" to one of your children during your lifetime and want to exclude that child from your Will, you can say so in the statement. While Inheritance Act Statements are not binding on the court in the event that your Will is disputed, the court is more likely to rule in favour of upholding the provisions of the Will if it can see that you have a reasonable motive for what you do.
(Forgot a couple of links in the other posts...oops.)
Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
A 1975 law? I wonder if did our normal cut-and-paste or whether that was a revamp of earlier rules.
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