How the law ‘protects the widow’

17 May 2018

2018 celebrates 100 years of women’s suffrage and recently the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Remembering this important milestone, the BBC published a series of suffrage posters sent to Cambridge University Library by Marion Phillips in 1910.

How the law 'protects the daughters.'

These posters relating to inheritance (click to enlarge), whereby male heirs were prioritised over female and where a widow had no recourse if she was cut out of her husband’s will, got me thinking about how this aspect of life has changed.

Whilst English law still has no compulsory heirship rules like those which exist in many countries on the continent, we do have the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This provides a basis for claims against an estate by close family members or persons who were maintained by the deceased but who are not included as beneficiaries of the will.

Such claims are necessary only where there is a disgruntled party wishing to contest the will, and in my opinion our laws seem to balance fairly well the freedom to dispose of assets freely with the protection of family members and those reliant on the deceased.

Of course, in the overwhelming majority of instances wills are uncontested – so called non-contentious probate – and it is commonplace for close family members to be included amongst both the executor and beneficiary groups, meaning they both deal with the administering of the estate and ultimately stand to benefit from the assets.

With emotion running high and with probate being a once or twice in a lifetime job for most people it is common for professional help to be sought. Historically this has been the job of a solicitor but with more accountancy firms becoming regulated to carry out non-contentious probate many are predicting that accountants will become the professional of choice in this area.

At UHY we believe that our tax knowledge and pragmatic approach positions us to give our clients an outstanding holistic service which not only deals with the practicalities necessary to obtain the grant of probate but also considers tax and commercial options available to the family.

If you would like to discuss our probate offering on a free of charge and no obligation basis, please contact your nearest licensed specialist. Learn more about our probate services here.

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