Inheritance feuds between step parents and step children are on the rise. Barely a week goes by without a call to our Free Inheritance Helpline about an inheritance dispute involving a step mother or step father.
We believe social factors are at play here. The prevalence of re-marriages and blended families, coupled with rising property prices and greater cross generational wealth, is increasingly causing family rifts. Step children in particular often feel they are losing out on what they regard, rightly or wrongly, as their inheritance when a step parent passes on inherited wealth to their own children, rather than them.
Its easy to see why this rankles. In one common scenario, mum and dad have worked hard over the years to accrue their wealth, with the intention always being to pass that wealth on to their children. Mum dies and dad goes on to remarry someone with children of her own from a previous relationship. When dad dies his estate passes to his new wife. It’s then her’s to dispose of how she pleases. The new wife decides to pass her entire estate to her own children, cutting out her step children completely.
Such a story has recently hit the news headlines with a feud between a son and his step mother being exposed in court after the step mother’s dog mauled a police officer.
The son called the police about his step mother, Jennifer. The investigating police officer who visited the farm where she lives was bitten by Jennifer’s dog. Jennifer had previously signed a non-biting behavioural contract, but had failed to muzzle the dog. She therefore faced prosecution.
The court heard that the son’s elderly father, Richard, has a number of children with Jenifer. She now cares for Richard full time, whilst also running a B&B with her eldest son on the farm.
It is reported in the Telegraph that Jenifer believes the son called the police because he fears he will lose out on inheriting his father’s farm. It is alleged he has contacted the police on several occasions and also referred the matter to social services and the court of protection.
With the social factors which fuel these inheritance disputes gaining pace we anticipate that feuds between step children and step parents will become an increasing problem.
The law governing inheritance in the UK is complex and expert legal guidance is generally required where such a dispute arises.
You can call our Free Inheritance Helpline for initial guidance on 0808 139 1608. Or you can email specialist inheritance lawyer Naomi Ireson direct at [email protected]