I’ve a question regarding stepchildren and the 1975 Act?
My stepmother (my dad remarried) has just died. She left her estate to her daughter, my stepsister. I’ve always been on friendly terms with my stepsister [we played prominent roles at each other’s weddings not that long ago], she being sweet about it, but she insists she’s bound by the terms of the will, and we have to follow her mother’s wishes.
Can I make a claim under the 1975 Act?
There are several points here, in no particular order
Stepchildren and the 1975 Act – The Act
By the 1975 Act you refer to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
By this Act of Parliament, the law seeks to temper the principle of testamentary freedom. Testamentary freedom is the principle by which one can leave one’s estate to whomever one wishes, however, the 1975 Act looks to ensure that people who would otherwise should have been provided for by the estate are granted reasonable provision from the estate.
Stepchildren and the 1975 Act – Reasonable
Reasonable, the sole word that in all history has made advocacy profitable.
A properly planned estate would leave no room for dispute, thus no call for recourse to the 1975 Act.
A properly planned estate would make reasonable provision for all plausible beneficiaries. A properly planned estate would dig into the circumstances of the estate and plausible beneficiaries thus mastering the issue of stepchildren and inheritance.
Reasonable provision might be as little as nothing. The court might agree that reasonable in the circumstances is as little as nothing.
My reading of the principle of testamentary freedom is that a testator should look after in death the people he looked after in their lifetime. In the circumstances of your late stepmother’s estate what is reasonable.
Stepchildren and the 1975 Act – Like A Reed
The grounds on which you might have been able to make a claim under the 1975 Act are like a reed, slender. As you allude to both you and your stepsister’s weddings, like me, your eighteenth birthday is long in the rear-view mirror. As you have attained the age of majority, we come to a fundamental reality of the 1975 Act. This act of parliament has been subject to and the fount of much mythmaking and mischievous comment. Nonetheless, many practitioners, of which I am a number, hold that in death, the testator my only be expected to provide financially for those whom they provided in life.
Inheritance Rights of Stepchildren & Applications for Financial ProvisionEW
Put another way, if you ended up in court the case would be decided on several points including:
- the relationship between the deceased and the expectant beneficiary
- the size of the estate
- what financial provision the now deceased made for the claimant while the deceased was alive
- the needs of the claimant – including disability and education
- promises that have been made relating to this inheritance
You’ll see from the non-exhaustive list above, there’re no such things as inheritance rights of stepchildren. We’ve left the fact of this being a blended family till last. It sounds like your stepmother is the second of the two parents to die. How was the estate of the first party of their marriage disposed of?
Stepchildren and the 1975 Act – What Happened on First Death
In a blended family, we have the matter of what happened to estate of the first parent to die. It appears your dad died earlier. What happened to his estate? Did your stepmother inherit all his assets?
In which case there might be a case for the assets that originally belonged to your father being returned to you.
The devil is in the detail. If you got to court, a consideration would be what promises were made on first death by which you did not claim your dad’s estate, but instead left it to his widow. It might be an unwitting case of how to disinherit stepchildren.