Left out of a loved one’s will? Ragan Montgomery, head of contentious probate at LCF Law in Bradford, has noticed a surge in such cases. This trend follows the recent revelation that Harry Potter star Michael Gambon left his £1.5 million fortune solely to his wife, leaving nothing for his long-term girlfriend and mother of his two teenage children.

Ragan said: “The fact that Sir Michael Gambon left the entirety of his fortune to his wife of 61 years and nothing to his girlfriend of two decades, who is the mother of his 17 and 15-year-old sons, has shone a spotlight on an issue that is very prevalent in today’s society.

“Most people tend to think that once a person has died, their will cannot be challenged. However, if someone close to you or an individual that you were dependent on has recently passed away and you have not been adequately provided for, you may be able to make a claim out of their estate under the Inheritance Act.

“Nowadays family structures can be much more complicated than they once were, which can lead to a person who was an important part of someone’s life being excluded from their will, or not being left as much as they need, often unintentionally.

“For example, if the deceased has been in a long-term relationship following separation or divorce and they have not updated their will, the family from their previous relationship might receive everything in their estate, leaving their partner with nothing.

“In other instances, the deceased might have made a promise when they were alive but not included it in their will. Where an individual has relied on such a promise and its failure to be fulfilled has resulted in a loss, they may be eligible to make a claim for the promise to be upheld.”

In many countries, when writing a will, a person has a legal obligation to leave a proportion of their wealth and possessions to certain people in their life. These may include their spouses and children. Although this is not the case in the UK, those who have been financially dependent on the deceased, but have not received adequate inheritance, may seek “reasonable financial provision” by claiming under the Inheritance Act.

Ragain explained: “Individuals who may be able to claim include a spouse or civil partner, children, both minors or adults, adopted children and stepchildren, a former spouse or civil partner, if they have not remarried, someone who has lived with the deceased continually for at least two years prior to their death, and anyone who has been financially maintained by them in some way.

“There are lots of reasons why people might need to challenge a will, especially if they feel they have not received their fair share of an estate. That’s where a good lawyer comes in, as they can challenge it. Working pragmatically and sensitively, in a manner that is mindful of family relationships is essential. At LCF Law we use mediation rather than court proceedings wherever possible, but if the case does end up in court, we work hard to achieve the very best outcome for our clients.

“I’ve been in the privileged position of helping many women and men who have either been excluded from their partner’s will or where no will has been left at all, but it’s women who are predominantly affected. Some have been left destitute, all whilst grieving and helping those women through such an emotional and stressful situation is what drives me. It is important to note though, that there is a limited timeframe for making a claim so a dedicated, specialist lawyer will need to act quickly and efficiently to get a fair outcome.”

Ragan has over 20 years of experience specialising in wills, trusts and inheritance disputes. She is named a Leading Individual in the Legal 500 Guide, an Affiliate Member of STEP Contentious Trusts and Estates Special Interest Groups, and a qualified Civil and Commercial Mediator – accredited by the ADR Group.

For more information visit www.lcf.co.uk