Although the starting point is that you can leave your assets to whomever you choose in your Will, the Inheritance Act* nonetheless acts as a safety net for eligible claimants who can demonstrate that they require more financial provision than they are due to receive under the Will, which in many cases is nothing.
These people are all automatically eligible:
No. There is a financial stress test. Claimants have to demonstrate they are in financial need to some extent and that they are not adequately provided for under the deceased's Will or, if there is no Will, under the Intestacy Rules.**
No. There are five other factors to consider too. Any physical or mental disabilities the claimant has, any obligations that the deceased had towards the claimant, the conduct of the claimant or any other matter which it's reasonable for the court to take into account. These are weighed against the financial position of the beneficiaries in the Will or of an intestacy and within the context of the size and nature of the estate.
Outcomes vary enormously on the facts of each case and there is no set percentage. However, expert advisors can typically advise on the range of likely outcomes, having assessed the individual facts for claimants as well as advising those faced with defending a claim.
Claimants have six months from the date of the Grant of Probate to issue their claim at court without requiring the court's special permission to do so. After which, they have a further four months to serve the claim on the executors and beneficiaries.
Yes it is. It is best to mention your concerns to your advisor when you make your Will as the careful choice of your executors is crucial if you do not want family members dealing with the estate administration and maybe a claim too as executors. There are other points you can consider, including preparing a list of reasons why you wish to exclude someone - but seek expert advice as these can backfire if not carefully prepared.
* The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
** The Intestacy Rules direct who inherits where there is no Will.