Disinheriting adult children
The number of claims made to the court by disinherited adult children seeking to challenge their deceased parent’s decision has risen by 11.5%. The trend is thought to have been fuelled by the well known case of Ilott v Mitson where the daughter made a successful claim against her mother’s estate after she left everything to charity.
However, a recent case heard at the Central London County Court has the potential to temper this trend.
Michael Ames died in 2013 leaving his entire estate, valued at approximately £700,000, to his second wife. Mr Ames’ daughter from his first marriage has two teenage children, is financially dependant on her long-term cohabitant and is unemployed. She issued a claim against her late father’s estate for ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
The Judge dismissed the daughter’s claim on the basis that the deceased’s estate was not ‘significant’ enough to support both the wife and the daughter. Further, the widow was ‘elderly’ and ill. The Judge contrasted the widow’s position with the daughters, whose unemployment he labelled a ‘lifestyle choice’.
It is easy to note the differences between the Ames case and Ilott v Mitson. The needs of Mrs Ames are clearly very different to a charity. The Judge in the Ames case felt that Mrs Ames could not be expected to sell or mortgage her home, which would be the only way to realise funds to provide for the daughter.
Whilst this case goes some way to dampen down the sensationalist claims following Ilott v Mitson that testamentary freedom is a thing of the past, it does not clear up all of the grey areas. There are many issues that will arise when an individual wishes to write a will that does not provide for an adult child. It is always important to take specialist advice from an experienced solicitor when writing your will if there is a risk of such a claim. Sensible consideration of the risks and any alternative options available can go a long way to minimising the chance of expensive litigation following your death, or avoid it altogether.
For more information please contact Eleanor Gadd, Associate, Private Client.
Published: 10 Oct 2016