Blended Families and Inheritance Disputes
As the traditional family changes and the more blended family with second marriages, stepchildren and second marriage children becomes increasingly common our solicitors are often asked what is the consequence of that social change in terms of inheritance?
Inheritance and Blended Families
When disagreements arise about an estate sometimes matters can be resolved between all those affected. However, relationships often break down and disagreements can be divisive and the effect on a blended family can often be more difficult. This is when a specialist inheritance and will dispute solicitor can advise you on the right course of action.
When a person passes away their estate is distributed either under the terms of their will however if a person dies without leaving a valid will, then their estate is distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.
Following the death of a loved one, the situation can become even more upsetting if you have not been provided for as you would have expected. In particular, in cases where there is a second marriage, the position of the step-children is often not fully understood.
Can a stepchild inherit under intestacy rules?
Under the Intestacy Rules, who inherits the Deceased’s estate depends on whether they are married / in a civil partnership, whether there are any children and who the surviving members of the immediate family are. The Intestacy Rules do not make any provision for stepchildren of the deceased, unless the parent had adopted the stepchild.
Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
A stepchild has not been provided for under the Intestacy rules, they may still be able to seek provision from the estate and may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’) as a ‘child of the family’ and seek reasonable financial provision from their step-parent's estate.
In order to bring a successful claim under the Inheritance Act for the stepchild, the court will make a decision based on various factors including the stepchildren's financial circumstances and needs.
Stepchild Inheritance Case
In a High Court case the impact on a stepchild where there is no will. In this case, the stepson alleged that he had been assured by his stepfather that there was a Will in place and that he would be provided for. However, no Will was found and so with no will in place the estate passed under the Intestacy Rules to the step-father’s cousins. As a stepchild the Intestacy Rules did not make any provision for him and so he brought proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, seeking reasonable financial provision from the estate.
It was found the boy was financially dependent on his stepfather, had lived with him for a number of years after his mother and step-father divorced and he had been granted custody. The boy was treated as a member of the family as the man had no biological children of his own.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the stepfather was formally responsible for providing the stepson with a home and support until he reached 21. It was found that the Intestacy Rules had denied the stepson reasonable provision from the estate.
Ultimately, the Court found that from the estate, which was worth £195,000, the stepchild was ordered to receive £55,000 from the estate.
Bringing an Inheritance Act Claim
“In this case the stepson was able to make a claim and provided evidence that provision should be made for him from his stepfather’s estate under the Inheritance Act. Each case we deal with is so unique to the family and their set of circumstances that I would encourage anyone considering challenging a Will to get in touch,” said Laura Pracy, Head of Pearson Solicitors Inheritance and Will Disputes Department.
If you believe that you may be eligible to bring a claim you should always seek immediate legal advice. You must bear in mind that the Inheritance Act requires an application to be made within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Representation.
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.