Probate and Will, Trust & Estate Disputes

Are parents obliged to provide for adult children?

We represented a client whose father passed away leaving an estate worth approx. £2 million.  In his will, the Deceased left a third of his estate to his partner, a third to his two adult children in equal shares and the last third to be divided equally between his four grandchildren. Of the grandchildren three were adults and one still a minor and severely disabled.  One grandchild has not been provided for, as the will was made at the time when they were not born as yet.

Our client’s sibling, a parent of the two minor grandchildren (one not provided for at all and the other suffering with severe disabilities), found the situation deeply unfair and thus brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“The 1975 Act”).

There was evidence that shortly before his death the Deceased was planning to change his will to provide for all his grandchildren.  It was argued on behalf of the Claimant that in fact the provision made by the will for their line of the family (i.e. the Claimant and their children) would have been much more generous if the Deceased managed to change his will before he died. In the claim, the Claimant provided evidence to suggest that even access to the entirety of the estate would not provide them with sufficient resources to satisfy all needs the Claimant has had as result of their own ill health and the multitude of needs of their disabled child.

The result of claims by adult children is not easy to predict.  In the much commented on case relating to the estate of Tony Shearer (Miles & Anor v Shearer [2021] EWHC 1000 Ch), the court rejected the daughters’ claim for a gift out of the estate referring to the “generous provision” Tony had made to his daughters during his lifetime.  Yet in a case of a much more modest estate (Re R (Deceased), 2021 EWHC 936 Ch), the court made an award for children aged 18 and 17, despite the Deceased explicitly stating that he did not want his children to benefit from his estate as he had no contact with them and he did not believe they needed his financial support.

Had the case of our client gone to trial, it may have resulted in useful guidance from the court as to how the disability of those dependant on the Claimant may impact on the considerations the court has to take into account when deciding claims under the 1975 Act.  However, rather than finding out an answer to a legally interesting questions, we managed to settle the client’s case early, shortly after proceedings were issued.  Even though the settlement meant that the client’s gift out of the estate was reduced, the settlement saved them the stress and delay that litigation would bring about.  Settlement also meant that our client still benefits from an generous gift out of the estate, which, if the Claimant was successful in their claim, would have been all but lost.

If you are considering making or defending a claim under the 1975 Act for suitable financial provision, please get in touch with our friendly wills, trusts and probate disputes team by calling 01892 510 000.

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