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Number of people ‘disinherited’ on increase

27 July 2011


The number of people who are receiving little or no inheritance from their parents is rising due to the increasing number of second marriages and an insufficient understanding of estate planning warns Adams & Remers LLP:

There is certainly still the expectation that when your parents die, you will inherit their wealth but increasingly this isn’t the case even though for many people it was the intention. It is therefore important for both parents to take legal advice, understand what could happen, and draw up a Will that suitably reflects their final wishes regarding their children’s financial future.

Many people wrongly assume that if their remaining parent remarries, they will still be entitled to the whole or a share of that parent’s estate when they die, but no matter how long the marriage, it is the new spouse who is likely to have a strong claim for the lion’s share of the estate – irrespective of what the Will says.

There are instances where adult children of a deceased parent have made successful claims for financial provision but these are few and far between. By contrast, the law very much recognises the right of the new spouse to be provided for. And where a parent hasn’t made sufficient provision in their Will for their new spouse, they leave the Will open to a challenge.

Anyone wishing to maximize the prospect of their adult children being provided for if they have remarried should try to minimise the likelihood of the spouse claiming and effectively overturning their wishes as expressed in their Will. This can be done by making sure the new spouse is provided for sufficiently.

What is sufficient always depends on the circumstances of the particular case. One could, in some cases provide the new spouse with a lifetime interest in a property owned by you (or one bought with the proceeds of its sale) as well as with a sum of money. Ownership of the property (or your share in it) could then pass to the children on the death of the spouse. This may not be enough in all cases though.

If someone with adult children is planning to remarry they should consider the need to make separate provision within a new Will for their children, and for the new spouse. The marriage will automatically make any previous will invalid. Importantly, one should talk to their new spouse about it too.

Wills are less likely to be challenged if everyone has been made aware of the person’s final wishes but it is important not to assume anything will happen just because it has been put in writing in your Will.

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