Claims by Children – Inheritance Act 1975

Claims by Children – Inheritance Act 1975

Claims by Children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975

The recent case of Shapton v Seviour in which judgment was given on 6th April 2020 is a typical example of cases being brought by children against their deceased parents’ estates under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

In this matter, the deceased husband (who passed away in 2016) left his entire estate to his wife of 17 years. The estate itself was a modest one mostly consisting of the matrimonial home. The couples’ children (two of whom were from previous marriages) were adults making their own way in life and standing on their own two feet. The defendant wife, on the other hand, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease and following the death of her husband, had not only lost the benefit of his income, but also had to give up her own job in the NHS, and rely on state benefits. Most of her savings were used for modifications to her home to facilitate her disability. As a result of this, she had just her home and a small amount of savings.

In his Judgment, Deputy Master Lloyd referred to the merits of the case as “absolutely hopeless” expressing the view that there was never any reasonable prospect of success having regard to the value of the estate (£268,000), the Claimant’s (the children) own financial resources compared to that of the disabled Defendant widow who had a terminal illness and whose needs were far greater than that of the Claimant. That does then beg the question, why this type of case ever made it to trial.

Whilst the Defendant did not want to pay out on the claim (and to this end, offered a drop hands settlement on two occasions to prevent the claim going any further) she had no choice but to defend the claim because of the Claimant’s insistence on pursuing it. After initial representation through lawyers, she ran out of funds for legal fees and acted in person assisted by a family member and a friend.

These types of cases are not unusual. Disgruntled adult children, unhappy at being left out of a parent’s will, and who stand on their own financial feet often bring cases like these against a deceased’s parents estate and will, more often than not, accept a lump sum settlement before the matter gets to trial. The case of Ilott has a lot to answer for. In that case, a child received just over 10% of her estranged mother’s estate. Illott has given adult children the potential hope that a claim may be successful and given the discretionary nature of awards, coupled with the costs and risks of litigation, potential Defendants are likely to want the certainty which settlement of a claim can offer, with the merits of a case falling much lower in the priority list of considerations.

Subsequent case law has dismissed the perceived “10% rule” for adult children in claims such as these. However, Defendants need to have the courage to defend these claims without feeling the pressure of settling where there is no merit. This is the only way we can stop the flood of these types of cases post Illott.  That is of course easier said than done, particularly when you’re not the one taking on the emotional pressure that comes with seeing litigation to trial and when you know that even if you successfully defend meritless claims of this nature, you’re still likely to be out of pocket financially.

How Blaser Mills Law can help?

If someone close to you has passed away and their Will doesn’t provide for you as it should, seek advice immediately as there are strict time limits for making an application under the 1975 Act.

Alternatively, if you are planning to leave a beneficiary out of your Will whose claim could fall under this Act, it is vital that you get expert advice in order to mitigate any potential claim against your estate.

Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to contesting a Will. Our lawyers offer strategic and practical advice that can help you towards obtaining the inheritance to which you should be entitled. If you would like further information on claims under the 1975 Act please contact, Sangita Manek on 01494 770 980 or at sam@blasermills.co.uk.