Inheriting is not always straightforward

It is fairly common for people to write their will so that they leave their estate (the sum total of their assets) to be inherited by their children when they die.

Leaving everything to the grandchildren

If that person has grandchildren, they might not name the grandchildren as beneficiaries in their will, taking the assumption that their children would either pass on a small amount of their inheritance to the grandchildren, at the appropriate time, or that their children would simply incorporate this into their own estate, which the grandchildren would inherit further down the line.

What happens if the children are effectively disinherited, and the person’s will states that they would like to leave all of their wealth to their grandchildren?

Disinheriting the children

If the grandchildren are all adults and the person who has passed away was of sound mind when they made the will, there should be no complications.

However, what if the grandchildren are under 16 (or an age specified in the will that they may inherit, for example some people chose to stipulate that significant sums are held in trust until the person reaches a specific age, for example 25) and still dependent on the parents?

Making a claim against the estate

In a case like this, the parents may be able to make a claim against the estate of their parent under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.

If they could show that they are in financial hardship, for example at risk of losing the family home, and that this would have an extremely adverse effect on the lives of the grandchildren, potentially leaving them homeless. They may be successful in a claim to retrieving a percentage of the estate, to enable the grandchildren to be maintained until such an age when they would get their inheritance directly.

Recourse for relatives

Michelle Hayter is a Partner in our Dispute Resolution Team, who specialises in what are known as contentious probate cases.

She says “Disputes over wills and inheritances are becoming more common and it can make dealing with the death of a family member or loved one even more stressful and distressing if there is a dispute. It often gets very complicated and, especially if not handled delicately and pragmatically, it can tear families apart irretrievably. However, there must be some recourse for people who are concerned that their relative’s will does not provide for them appropriately, leaves them in grave financial hardship or does not reflect what they believed were their true intentions. Sometimes people suspect that the person was not of sound mind when they made their will, or was being influenced by a third person. There are also occasions where people have not made a valid will at all. We are here to help people with all those scenarios.”

Specialist probate dispute solicitors

Very few firms in the Dorset area genuinely specialise in handling the complexities of these disputes. Frettens can help you bring or defend a claim over a will or an inheritance. Michelle is one of a small number of solicitors who have successfully completed the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) course, which demonstrates their expertise in this field. Michelle has been accepted by ACTAPS as a member.

Our Dispute Resolution Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Michelle or her team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.