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Inheritance Act 1975: Claims by Adult Children

My first article looked at the Act as a whole. I now wish to look at the different classes of Claimants in more detail. This article will look specifically at claims by adult Children. By this I mean both natural born children and those treated as children of the family.

One of the key principles of the Inheritance Act is that a person is free to dispose of their assets as they wish on their death. Therefore, an adult child does not have an automatic right to receive an inheritance from their parents. While the Inheritance Act enables a child of the deceased to make an application for financial provision, in order to be successful, the claimant must show that the will (or the intestacy rules if there is no will) does not make “reasonable financial provision” for their maintenance.

The reported case of Illott v Mitson had, for a period, many solicitors excited, because it was thought this case opened the floodgates for claims by adult children, which had always been considered difficult. The appeal Court found however, that as long as the trial Judge took into account the relevant factors and did not consider irrelevant factors the decision was a matter for the trial Judge, and not open to appeal.

If you recall, the relevant factors are:

  • The financial needs and resources which the applicant has or is likely to have in the future:

  • The financial resources any other applicant has or is likely to have in the future:

  • The financial needs and resources which any beneficiary of the estate has or is likely to have.

  • Any obligations and responsibilities the deceased has towards any applicant or towards any beneficiary of the estate;

  • The size and nature of the net estate;

  • The physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary of the estate;Any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person which in the circumstances the Court considers relevant.

The courts have since had further chances to offer some clarity. In the recent case of Miles V Shearer 2021, the claim was refused, despite the estate having a net value of £2m.

The marriage was a long one, 24 years, prior to divorce. It was a second marriage with the children being issue of the first marriage.

The court found:

  • The children had an affluent life before the divorce of the father but could not expect that standard of living to continue indefinitely. The lifestyle they had made in terms of marriage and family were not dependent upon their father’s support;

  • The children had been able to invest in properties due to the financial support lent by the father and had made it quite clear that they could expect no further support;

  • There was no obvious moral obligation upon the father to continue with the support;

  • Their needs could be met from their own resources with an adjustment to their lifestyle.

Ultimately the applicants were able to maintain themselves from their own resources and the father knew his own mind and had been upset that they had refused to accept the second wife.

If you would like to discuss your Inheritance or Trust dispute please contact me.

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