The Inheritance (Provision For Family And Dependants) Act 1975 as amended
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“IPFDA”) enables a child of the deceased (amongst others) to make a claim against his or her estate in circumstances whereby the deceased did not make reasonable financial provision for them in their will (or by an intestacy).
What constitutes ‘a child’ extends to any child of the deceased including illegitimate, legitimated and adopted children of any age and any person treated by the deceased as a child of the marriage or civil partnership.
Recently the courts have seen a spate of claims under the IPFDA bought by adult children. Even the estranged daughter of an Earl has claimed, but she failed in her attempt to bring a claim against her late father’s £1.3 million estate. She is reported to have sought to argue that she was forced out of the family at a young age by her father’s second wife; on her father’s death she made a IPFDA claim against his estate (‘a moral claim’). However, the Judge found she was solely at fault for the relationship breakdown and pointed to her “disruptive behaviour” and ‘lifestyle of “drink, drugs and bohemia” as the reason.
Under Section 3 of the IPFDA, the court will take into account the following factors when deciding whether a reasonable financial provision has been granted for a claimant:
a) the financial resources and needs of the applicant;
b) the financial resources and needs of any other applicant;
c) the financial resources and needs of the beneficiaries;
d) any obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards any applicant and any beneficiary;
e) the size and nature of the estate of the deceased;
f) any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary;
g) any other matter, including conduct, which the court may consider relevant.
The so called “moral claim” falls within the scope of 3(g) and has been pursued in recent years with varying levels of success. The most notable case of this was the case of Illot v Mitson ).
However, the reality is that claims by adult children under the IPFDA are difficult. Adult children living at home and those that were financially dependent on a deceased parent will always stand a much better chance of success under the Act than those that maintain themselves financially. It will be fact sensitive in every case and will depend on the factors outlined in Section 3.
Whilst not binding, those making a Will should consider writing a letter setting out why the person making the Will has decided to leave their estate in a particular way and exclude or limit the benefit to those entitled to claim under the IPFDA.