What are children’s inheritance rights?
Naomi Ireson, a partner in our inheritance disputes team, reviews children’s inheritance rights following the recent case of Ubbi v Ubbi in which an Inheritance Act claim was made on behalf of two young children against their late father’s estate.
Inheritance claim made by infant children
The claim was made by the children’s mother against their father’s estate. The mother was not married to the father. He and his wife had been going through the process of a divorce, but he had died unexpectedly before the divorce could be finalised. In his will he left his entire estate to his wife. However the court said there was no evidence that he had intentionally excluded the two children.
The children claimed £848,000 from the estate which was valued between £3.5m to £4.5m. The deceased’s wife defended the claim. Although she agreed that the children should receive something from the estate, she thought a sum of £254,000 was reasonable.
The court confirmed that the fact the children’s mother and father were not married would not prevent them from making an Inheritance Act claim.
How the court assessed the children’s inheritance rights
The children lived with their mother in a flat that was owned by the deceased and his wife. A claim was therefore made in respect of the children’s future housing needs.
The court awarded them £70,950 representing the cost of renting a four bedroom house while the children were in primary education and a three bedroom house when they reached secondary school age. The additional bedroom was to provide accommodation for a live-in nanny to allow the mother to continue to work full time while the children were young. The cost of hiring a professional nanny was also allowed. The total childcare award was over £234,000.
A claim had been made for the cost of private education, but this was rejected by the court.
A total sum of £386,290.60 was awarded to the children from their father’s estate; a figure that was much closer to the wife’s valuation of the claim than the figure that had been advanced on behalf of the children.
What the case tells us about children’s inheritance rights
The judgment confirms that children (especially infant children) will be looked on sympathetically if a parent dies without making reasonable financial provision for them in a will. Although courts respect the principle of testamentary freedom (our right to choose who we leave our property to) they will not hesitate to exercise the powers contained in the Inheritance Act to make sure that children are adequately provided for.
The case also gives important guidance as to how those powers will be exercised and the principles which will be applied when determining how a claim should be valued.