This blog sets out the general timescales in relation to this type of inheritance claim but it is important to note that there can be complicating factors which delay matters at each stage, depending on your particular case and the parties involved.
1. Pre-action steps
Depending on when you seek advice regarding your case, this phase can represent the majority of the process. A claim can be settled during this phase without needing to refer the claim to Court.
This phase often includes meeting or speaking with you (and other relevant parties or witnesses) to gather information in relation to the case. It can also include carrying out other investigations regarding your finances and other evidence that is required to support your cause.
Once initial investigations have been concluded, this phase can also involve writing to the executor/beneficiaries of the estate to provide details of your claim. This can often lead to an exchange of correspondence which results in an agreement being reached, or the parties attending a mediation at which an agreement is reached.
2. Issuing proceedings
(Up to a year)
This involves formally preparing your claim and filing it at Court. In all but exceptional circumstances, this phase must be completed within six months of a grant of probate being obtained. The Court has discretion to allow applications to be made outside of this time frame. Please see our further blog on time limited for more information on this point.
Once issued by the Court, the claim must be served on the relevant parties within four months of the date the claim was issued.
Once the defendants have received the claim, they must respond to it by indicating to the Court whether they intend to defend the claim and if so, provide their reasons and evidence for doing so. This usually takes up to five weeks.
After the defendants have responded, a plan is put in place so all parties know when to file certain documents and when a trial is likely to take place. This timetable can be agreed between the parties, or sometimes the parties will need the Court's assistance. A Court hearing will usually take place to agree the timetable with the Court. Such hearings usually last no longer than an hour or two and only lawyers need attend. This timetabling phase can take a few months to complete.
Once the timetable has been agreed, it will need to be carried out. This phase can include sharing information between the parties (known as disclosure), preparing witness and expert evidence. Witness evidence will be obtained in the form of formal statements which need to be signed by the person making the statement. This phase can also take several months and can be quite expensive.
If the parties have not been able to reach an agreement between themselves during the preceding months, a trial will be listed. A pre-trial hearing might be required for the Court to ascertain whether the parties are ready for trial and whether any further steps are required.
(Up to a week)
At a trial, a judge will decide whether the claim is successful and either provide their decision on the final day of the trial, or more commonly, a few weeks afterwards.
Trials can often last several days and will usually involve barristers presenting each party's case to a judge. The barristers will also question the parties, witnesses and any experts.
Trials can be extremely expensive and stressful, but we do whatever we can to reduce the expense and stress of the experience for you. The Judge will also decide who pays the cost of the proceedings (usually from Step 2 onwards) at this stage.
It is possible to agree a settlement at any phase of a claim and ahead of a trial taking place. Often the Court actively encourages the parties to come to an agreement without needing the Court's input and can impose sanctions on parties that actively refuse to engage in such negotiations. Look out for our upcoming blog on Alternative Dispute Resolution for further details of what form these negotiations often take.
Clarion's Contentious Private Client Team are experts in dealing with claims under the Act and are happy to have an initial chat about the points detailed above. Please feel free to contact us on 0113 336 3427 and one of the Team will be able to assist.
Take a look at the previous blogs in this series if you haven’t already and don’t forget to look out for the next one which will cover the costs you might incur in bringing a claim under the Act.
Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.