Adult children can face an uphill struggle when it comes to bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Unlike minor children – whose need for financial support is clear and apparent – adult children who are capable of living independent lives need to provide evidence of a need for maintenance if they are to succeed in a claim.
For an adult child to succeed they need to show something “more”. That something “more” may include a disability or may be a strong moral obligation up on the deceased to provide for them from their Estate.
In the very recent County Court case of Higgins v Morgan the Court had to consider a claim brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by someone who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family.
Section 1(1)(d) Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 sets out a right for anyone who is treated as a child of the family to bring a claim. In such cases a claimant will usually be treated in the same way as someone who was actually a child of the family.
In Higgins v Morgan the claimant produced evidence that the deceased had made comments confirming that the claimant would benefit from the Will.
In Higgins the Court held that a simple statement by the deceased that they wished someone to benefit from their Will would not be sufficient to tip the balance of considerations in the claimant’s favour. The consideration of whether reasonable financial provision had been made is an objective one and the simple statement of intent would not be sufficient to weigh in the claimant’s favour. An express reason, however, for rejecting a claimant might be relevant and this view was set out by Goff LJ in Re: Coventry .
In Higgins v Morgan, the County Court Judge held that by the same token, an express reason given for wishing to provide for the claimant might be relevant in considering the factors to be looked at as it may indicate a perceived moral obligation felt by the deceased towards the claimant.
The test remains as set out in Re: Coventry but this case is an interesting development in the world of adult claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and may give additional scope to raise a moral obligation argument in such cases.
Where there is evidence of the reasons given by the deceased either for including or excluding a person from their Will these should be evidenced at an early stage in a claim brought under the 1975 Act.
Jennifer Laskey, a Director in the Dispute Resolution Team at Howes Percival and a specialist in contentious trusts and probate litigation says
“Assessment of the claim against the factors set out in Section 3 Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to which the Court will give consideration when granting relief can avoid launching into a claim that has few prospects of success. A positive assessment against the factors and evidence of the wishes and reasons of the deceased, on the other hand, may well help to persuade other parties to settle a claim and avoid the need to bring potentially costly legal proceedings.”
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