While English law allows anyone to leave any part of their estate to whomever they wish, it also recognises a moral duty to adequately provide for their family (and other dependants).
In England, the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 sets out those categories of persons who are eligible to make a claim on the estate of a deceased person. This includes adult children. Being eligible does not, however, necessarily mean their claim will be successful.
Considerations for a Successful Adult Child Family Provision Claim
To have a chance of a successful claim, there are some conditions to be met. Firstly, the claim normally needs to be made within six months from the date of the grant of probate for the estate of the deceased, though the Court might consider making an order ‘out of time’ if there is sufficient cause. Secondly, the Court will consider whether the deceased has already provided the adult child with sufficiently reasonable provision for their maintenance. Thirdly, in assessing the prevailing circumstances, the Court will consider the factors set out in section three of the Inheritance Act. These factors include:
- The relationship between the deceased and their adult child, including its nature and duration. For example, the relationship may be close and enduring, or it might have been rocky including a period of estrangement.
- The size of the estate. If the estate is substantial and there are only a few beneficiaries, there may be more scope to make a provision for an adult child who has not received adequate provision. Conversely, where there is a small estate, this may not be possible. Making a provision inevitably impacts other beneficiaries.
- The financial resources and needs, both now and in the future, of all those individuals claiming or existing beneficiaries. The Court will consider whether the adult child has adequate financial resources and earning capacity, whether others are making a claim, the position of other beneficiaries who have an entitlement and whether the adult child or existing beneficiary is likely to have additional needs because of their circumstances, such as a physical or mental disability.
- The age of the adult child may be relevant concerning future financial needs and prospects including how the applicant was being educated or might expect to be educated or trained.
- Any provision made during the deceased’s lifetime. For example, did the deceased provide financial assistance to acquire property?
- The nature and extent of any obligations or responsibilities owed by the deceased to the adult child. For example, if the child was dependent on the deceased in some way.
- Any contributions, whether financial or otherwise, made to enhance the estate or the deceased’s welfare by the applicant.
- The character and conduct of the adult child towards the deceased.
- The testamentary intentions of the deceased. There may have been a particular reason the deceased did not wish an adult child to receive a share of the estate and may have documented these reasons. This may not necessarily be fatal to a claim but is an important consideration.
The particular circumstances of every case will be considered in a court determination as to whether or not to make an order for a provision or additional provision from an estate. The recent case outlined below demonstrates some of these factors in practice.
Case Study: Larsen v Annan  EWHC 662 (Ch)
In this case, the defendant, Heather Annan, was the executor and main beneficiary of her father’s estate. The claim was a 1975 Act claim brought by two adult children, Heather’s siblings. Claimant 1 Wayne owned his own profitable business, his own home and two other properties and earned more than £30,000 pa. Claimant 2 Russell was chronically disabled, in receipt of state benefits and his bank statements showed substantial amounts of money being spent at casinos and online betting. The judge dismissed Wayne’s claim concluding “Wayne is able to meet his own reasonable financial needs, both now and in the foreseeable future.”
The Court did however determine that Russell required additional provision and made an award of an additional £25,000 for his future care needs, to be held in trust.
For more details on this case and a link to the full judgment see my previous blog –