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Generally, any claim under the Act must be brought within 6 months of the date on which a Grant of probate was issued. However, in certain cases the courts have discretion to extend this time limit.
In Cowan v Foreman  , Mary Cowan brought a claim against the estate of her late husband, Michael Cowan. The claim was issued 17 months out of time. The Estate was worth £16millon and whilst Mary was a beneficiary of the estate, she was not happy with the provision which had been made for her.
Whilst initially the court refused permission for the claim to proceed outside the 6 months time limit, on appealing to the court of Appeal , Mary’s claim was allowed to proceed and the Court of Appeal emphasized that the reason of the delay is not the only relevant factor and that each case should be determined on its own facts with particular regards to the prospects of success of any claim.
Similarly inthe case of Thakre v Bhusate  , Mrs Bhusate was granted permission to bring her claim 25 years out of time. Mr and Mrs Bhusate had been married since 1979 when he was 61 years of age.
Mrs Bhusate was the deceased’s third wife and was 28 years old at the time of her marriage to him. She spoke very little English and had one son. She lived in the family home in London and Mr Bhusate had five children from his previous marriages who were all adults at the time.
When he died intestate in 1990, his other children failed to co-operate at all with Mrs Bhusate in relation to the administration of the estate which had, according to the Judge, been “left in limbo” for many years.
The court found that Mrs Bhusate’s circumstances were exceptional and accepted that she could not have brought the claim any sooner. The Court gave permission for the claim to proceed and despite the step children appealing the court’s decision, the Court of Appeal agreed that the claim should be allowed to proceed and dismissed the Appeal.
Whilst the decisions in these two cases are a positive development in Inheritance Act claims, it is nevertheless important that such claims for provision from the estate, are brought as soon as possible and within the 6 months time limit where possible as these cases highlighted the fact that each case will be determined on its own facts and so any unreasonable delays in bringing claims will not be overlooked by the courts.