A common issue we are asked to advise on is the relevance of means tested benefits to a will dispute or an inheritance claim. People in receipt of such support are in vulnerable circumstances and are understandably concerned that:
- Their position might prevent them from disputing a Will; or
- Their financial position might be altered to their detriment by receipt of an inheritance.
Being in receipt of benefits is not a bar to disputing a Will. Indeed, a common Will claim that we pursue on behalf of clients is under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This type of claim is based on an assessment of the claimant’s financial resources and needs and the fact that you receive means tested benefits can support such arguments.
Whilst your financial circumstances may prevent you from affording to pay for legal advice, where your claim has merit, we will often be willing to act for you under “no win, no fee” agreements.
But what if you succeed – will the impact of any inheritance received leave you worse off? The most common means tested benefits in England and Wales are:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance;
- Employment and Support Allowance;
- Housing Benefit;
- Universal Credit; and
- Council Tax Support.
For these, an increase in your income and/ or capital could affect your eligibility to continuing claiming benefits and it could potentially stop all your benefit payments. If you are claiming benefits, you have a duty to report increases to your financial circumstances. Therefore, if you do not report your inheritance, you may have to repay some of the benefit money that you received and you could also face prosecution.
However, in most cases we deal with, the benefit of an inheritance will far exceed the lost income. In other cases, it is possible to maintain your entitlement to means tested benefits by the use of trusts.
If you are concerned that your eligibility to claim benefits may be affected by an inheritance, or you want advice about options that can reduce the impact that your inheritance will have on your income and/or capital through the creation of trusts or by varying a Will, please contact Phil Youdan at email@example.com