Under the law of England and Wales, you are free to leave your estate to whomever you wish. However, it is important that you leave your estate fairly to those you wish to protect. Under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, there are many different people who can make a claim against your estate.
- Your spouse or civil partner, and former spouse or civil partner, unless the divorce settlement says otherwise,
- Your children and anyone who has been treated as a dependent child of the family,
- Anyone who has lived with the deceased for more than two years,
- Anyone who was financially dependent on you immediately before your death.
If you decide to disinherit an individual from the above categories of claimants, it is entirely possible that they or their representatives will make a claim against your estate. From our experience, these claims can take years to resolve, with horrendous legal bills often adding up to much more than the value of the claim. In these cases the emotional stress is usually the highest cost, and the relationships between the claimants and the defendants will be life changing.
Think very carefully about disinheriting a child. You cannot make amends from the grave, and a disinherited child might well challenge the claims of others. Bear in mind that you do not have to leave equally to your children.