The Inheritance Act and Hirachand v Hirachand: A Landmark Case Reshaping Contentious Probate and CFAs

In the realm of contentious probate, few pieces of legislation carry as much weight as the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, commonly referred to as the Inheritance Act. This crucial law serves as a safeguard for individuals who find themselves inadequately provided for in a deceased person’s will or under the rules of intestacy. As we await a potentially groundbreaking decision in the case of Hirachand v Hirachand, it’s essential to understand the far-reaching implications this could have on future Inheritance Act claims and the broader landscape of contentious probate.

Understanding the Inheritance Act: A Cornerstone of Contentious Probate

The Inheritance Act or ‘1975 Act’ was introduced to provide a safety net for those who might otherwise be left in financial hardship following the death of a loved one. It allows certain categories of individuals to make a claim against an estate if they believe reasonable financial provision has not been made for them. These categories include:

  1. Spouses or civil partners of the deceased
  2. Former spouses or civil partners who have not remarried
  3. Children of the deceased (including adult children)
  4. Any person treated as a child of the family in relation to a marriage or civil partnership
  5. Any person who was being maintained by the deceased immediately before their death

The Act serves as a vital safeguard, particularly for dependants who may have been unexpectedly left out of a will or not adequately provided for under intestacy rules. It’s important to note that the Act doesn’t just apply to those who have been completely excluded from a will; even beneficiaries who feel their inheritance is insufficient can potentially make a claim. Our solicitors are specialists in taking on Inheritance Act 1975 claims and do so on a genuine No Win No Fee basis.

When considering an Inheritance Act claim, the court will take into account various factors, including:

  • The financial resources and needs of the applicant
  • The financial resources and needs of other beneficiaries
  • The size and nature of the estate
  • Any physical or mental disability of the applicant or beneficiaries
  • Any other matter, including conduct, which the court may consider relevant

Hirachand v Hirachand: A Case with Far-Reaching Implications

The case of Hirachand v Hirachand has captured the attention of legal professionals across England and Wales due to its potential to fundamentally alter how Inheritance Act claims are funded and litigated. At its core, the case revolves around a daughter’s claim for provision from her father’s estate, which had been left entirely to his widow.

The key issue at stake is whether the daughter can recover her conditional fee agreement (CFA) success fee as part of her award under the Inheritance Act. A CFA is a common type of No Win No Fee agreement within contentious probate matters. This question about whether the daughter can recover her CFA success fee has far-reaching implications for future claimants and how these cases are funded.

The case has already made its way through the High Court and Court of Appeal, with both courts ruling in favour of allowing the recovery of the CFA success fee. Now, as the case reaches the Supreme Court, the legal community awaits a decision that could reshape the landscape of contentious probate.

The Supreme Court Appeal: A Closer Look

In January 2024, the Supreme Court heard the appeal in Hirachand v Hirachand. The central question before the court is whether it’s lawful and appropriate for a court to include an amount to cover a CFA success fee when making an award under the Inheritance Act.

The appellant (the deceased’s widow) argues that allowing the recovery of success fees through Inheritance Act awards effectively circumvents the prohibition on recovering such fees through costs orders, as established by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

On the other hand, the respondent (the deceased’s daughter) contends that the success fee forms part of her ‘financial needs’ under the Inheritance Act, and therefore, the court has the discretion to make provision for it in the award.

The decision of the Supreme Court will have significant implications for how Inheritance Act claims are funded and litigated in the future.

Potential Impact on Future Inheritance Act Claims

If the Supreme Court upholds the decisions of the lower courts, it could have several important implications:

  1. Increased accessibility to justice: If success fees can be recovered, it may become easier for individuals to pursue Inheritance Act claims, as the financial risk of litigation would be reduced. This could particularly benefit claimants who might otherwise struggle to fund their cases.
  2. Larger awards against estates: Estates may face larger awards if success fees are included, potentially impacting other beneficiaries. This could lead to more complex negotiations and potentially more contested cases.
  3. Greater scrutiny of costs: There may be increased scrutiny of costs and funding arrangements in Inheritance Act cases. Courts may need to carefully examine the reasonableness of success fees and how they relate to the overall claim.
  4. Changes to CFA structures: Lawyers may need to reconsider how they structure CFAs for Inheritance Act claims. This could lead to more tailored funding arrangements that take into account the potential for recovery of success fees.
  5. Potential for wider cost recovery: The decision could potentially open the door to recovery of other litigation costs as part of Inheritance Act awards. This could have significant implications for how these cases are funded and litigated.
  6. Impact on settlement negotiations: The potential for recovery of success fees could influence settlement negotiations, potentially leading to higher settlement offers to avoid the risk of larger awards at trial.
  7. Increased complexity in quantifying claims: Lawyers may need to factor in potential success fee recovery when quantifying claims, adding another layer of complexity to an already challenging process.

The Importance of Expert Legal Advice in Light of Hirachand v Hirachand

Given the potential changes to the landscape of Inheritance Act claims, it is more crucial than ever to seek expert legal advice when considering making a claim or defending an estate against one. The outcome of Hirachand v Hirachand could significantly alter the strategic considerations in these cases, making professional guidance invaluable.

C-PAID: Your Contentious Probate Experts

At C-PAID, we specialise in contentious probate and inheritance disputes on a genuine No Win No Fee basis, including the ‘CFA’ model as used in Hirachand v Hirachand. Our team of experienced solicitors has a proven track record of successfully handling Inheritance Act claims throughout England and Wales. We pride ourselves on offering a personalised service, tailored to each client’s unique circumstances.

Our expertise in Inheritance Act claims includes:

  • Assessing the merits of potential claims
  • Advising on the likely value of claims
  • Negotiating settlements to avoid costly litigation where possible
  • Representing clients in court proceedings when necessary
  • Advising on the most appropriate funding arrangements, including genuine 100% no win no fee agreements

What sets C-PAID apart is our deep understanding of the complexities of Inheritance Act claims and our ability to offer genuine 100% no win no fee agreements for suitable cases. This means that you can pursue your claim without the worry of upfront legal costs or the risk of being left with a large bill if your case is unsuccessful.

Our expertise extends beyond Inheritance Act claims to cover all aspects of contentious probate, including:

  • Will disputes and challenges to the validity of wills
  • Claims against executors and administrators
  • Trust disputes
  • Estate administration disputes
  • Proprietary estoppel claims

Navigating the Post-Hirachand Landscape

As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in Hirachand v Hirachand, it’s clear that the landscape of Inheritance Act claims is likely to change. At C-PAID, we are committed to staying at the forefront of these developments, ensuring that our clients receive the most up-to-date and effective legal advice.

Our team of specialist solicitors is well-prepared to navigate the potential changes that may arise from the Hirachand decision. We will be ready to advise clients on:

  1. How the decision may affect their specific case
  2. The potential for recovery of success fees and other costs
  3. The most appropriate funding arrangements in light of the decision
  4. Strategies for negotiation and litigation that take into account the new legal landscape

Whether you’re considering making an Inheritance Act claim or defending an estate against one, C-PAID has the expertise and experience to guide you through the process, ensuring the best possible outcome for your case.

Contact C-PAID Today

If you’re considering making an Inheritance Act claim on a No Win No Fee basis or need advice on any aspect of contentious probate, don’t hesitate to contact C-PAID. Our team of specialist solicitors and paralegals is ready to provide expert guidance and support throughout your case.

You can reach us at our Manchester office:

C-PAID: Contested Probate and Inheritance Disputes
4 Jordan Street
M15 4PY

Phone: 0161 532 8111

At C-PAID, we understand that dealing with contentious probate issues and inheritance disputes including contesting a will can be emotionally challenging as well as legally complex. Our compassionate and professional approach ensures that you receive not only expert legal advice but also the support you need during this difficult time.

Don’t let uncertainty about your inheritance rights hold you back. Contact C-PAID today for a confidential discussion about your case and how we can help you achieve the best possible outcome. With our expertise in contentious probate and Inheritance Act claims, combined with our commitment to client care, you can trust C-PAID to guide you through even the most complex inheritance disputes.