Posted by Mike Muston, Senior Associate
Great expectations: Your inheritance may not be all you hope for
In a recently reported case, a daughter was told by the court that she would not be awarded any share of her father’s £1m estate. The case appears to provide a valuable lesson for children relying upon a future inheritance to provide financial security.
In the case, Danielle Ames claimed that her father, Michael, would make promises to her saying that “it will all be yours one day”. However, her father’s will left everything to his wife, Elaine (Danielle’s stepmother), with whom he had been in a relationship for over 30 years. Danielle therefore made a claim against her father’s estate for “reasonable financial provision” under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Under the Act, individuals including spouses, children and financial dependants may make a claim, where they feel they have not received a fair share of a deceased person’s estate. However, merely because a person has not received any share of a family member’s estate, does not mean that they have any guarantee of being successful. This is due to the assessment that the court will carry out, which will include a review of the financial position of the parties, the value of the estate and any physical or mental health needs which might affect the ability of the claimant to earn an income.
The court found that Danielle had provided inconsistent evidence regarding her financial position. Importantly, the court also found that there was not any legitimate reason for Danielle to no longer be working, with her having previously run a business given to her by her father. The judge concluded that any impact that her unemployment might have on her financial position was as a result of her own “lifestyle choice”. By contrast, the judge found that Elaine had a far more compelling claim to the inheritance, particularly as she was Michael’s wife and she had reached retirement age. The court therefore upheld the provision within Michael’s will and dismissed Danielle’s claim entirely.
The case appears to suggest that potential claimants will need to satisfy various aspects of the relevant criteria in order to bring a successful claim. It certainly cannot be guaranteed that an adult child can rely upon receiving a sizeable inheritance, even in circumstances where they have a wealthy parent.
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