The inheritance rights of children under the age of 18 explained
The inheritance rights of children where there is a Will
You can make provision for children of any age in a Will. Although there is no obligation on a parent to make provision for a child, children who are not provided for are entitled to bring an Inheritance Act claim.
A child can also make an inheritance claim against the estate of anyone who treated them as though they were their own child (such as a step-parent) or anyone who provided them with financial support (such as a grandparent).
The Inheritance Act allows the child to apply to the court for ‘reasonable financial provision’. This means that every case is different and if an award is made it will depend on a variety of factors such as the child’s financial needs, their health, the size of the estate and the position of other beneficiaries.
A child under the age of 18 will need to have an adult representative to bring an Inheritance Act claim. This person is known as a ‘Litigation Friend’ and can be another parent, a member of their family or someone who has their best interests at heart.
The inheritance rights of children where there is no Will
When someone dies without making a valid Will their assets will be inherited by their closest relatives in accordance with the rules of intestacy.
The intestacy rules are frequently updated so it is recommended that you get up to date advice. However, further information on intestacy law can be found here.
Children do benefit under the intestacy rules, subject to the rights of any surviving spouse. The spouse receives what is known as the ‘statutory legacy’ which is currently the first £322,000 (July 2023). This can mean that children receive an inadequate share of an estate, or possibly no legacy at all. Should this happen in a situation where the child is financially vulnerable, they may be able to bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance Act as described above.
The inheritance rights of adopted children
The inheritance rights of adopted children are the same as those of biological children and the intestacy rules operate in the same way.
Children who have been adopted lose their inheritance rights in relation to their birth parent. However, they are still entitled to make an Inheritance Act claim on the basis of financial dependency or if they continued to be treated by the deceased as their child.
The inheritance rights of step children
The intestacy rules do not provide for stepchildren and this can often lead to problems when a stepparent dies. Inheritance Act claims are therefore frequently made by and on behalf of stepchildren.
How we can help
If you need guidance on the inheritance rights of children then you can call our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0404. Alternatively you can send details of the case to us at [email protected]
If a child needs to bring an Inheritance Act claim then we can work on a No Win, No Fee basis, so worries about funding legal costs should not prevent then gaining access to justice.