Navigating Inheritance in Modern Families: What Blended Families Need to Know About the Inheritance Act 1975

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Home > Knowledge Hub > Navigating Inheritance in Modern Families: What Blended Families Need to Know About the Inheritance Act 1975

The traditional nuclear family is often no longer the norm. Blended families, cohabiting couples, and families with adopted or step-children are increasingly common. While these modern family structures bring joy, they also introduce complexities when it comes to inheritance.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) exists to offer some protection to those who might be left out of a Will, particularly vulnerable family members.

But how does it apply to the unique dynamics of today’s families?

Understanding the Act and Blended Families:

The Inheritance Act allows certain individuals to challenge a Will or the Rules of Intestacy (when there’s no Will) if they haven’t received “reasonable financial provision” for their needs from the estate of the deceased. Under the Inheritance Act the categories of applicants who can apply for financial provision from the estate are as follows:

  • Spouses, Civil Partners and Cohabitees: Spouses, civil partners and cohabitees who have been left out of the deceased’s Will may have a strong claim under the Inheritance Act, especially if together for a length or time or have been financially dependent on the deceased.
  • Children: Biological, adopted, or “children of the family” (stepchildren raised as one’s own) can all potentially make claims.
  • Dependants: Those who relied financially on the deceased, even if not related by blood or marriage, also may have a case.

With blended families, additional considerations and complexities can often arise:

  • Stepchildren: They don’t automatically inherit any part of an estate unless they are included in the Will. However, if they were financially dependent on the deceased step-parent and treated as part of the family, they could have a claim under the Inheritance Act.
  • Former Spouses: Financial obligations to a former spouse, like child maintenance, can have an impact on inheritance for new partners and children. Both former and current spouses have the potential to make a claim from the estate if they are left without provision under a Will or the Intestacy Rules.

Planning for a Secure Future:

While the Inheritance Act offers certain protection, it is worth bearing in mind that it is of course always best to be proactive to avoid potential disputes:

  • Open Communication: Talk openly within your family about your wishes and intentions. Discussing inheritance with all involved parties can foster understanding and prevent future conflict.
  • Clear Wills: A well-drafted Will that clearly outlines your wishes for all assets can minimise confusion and legal challenges. Consider seeking legal advice to ensure your Will reflects the complexities of your family structure.
  • Advice from Independent Financial Advisors: Planning for the future and financial products, such as life insurance can be used to provide financial security for specific individuals, like stepchildren or financially dependent partners, who might not inherit directly from an estate.

Seeking Professional Guidance:

The Inheritance Act can be a powerful tool, but navigating its intricacies in the context of a blended family can be challenging. Consulting a solicitor specialising in this area early on can be invaluable as they can help you understand your rights and obligations under the Act.

At Taylor Walton, our Private Client team can assist you in taking necessary steps to ensure the members of your family are provided for in accordance with your wishes. By seeking advice on estate planning, you can secure a smooth inheritance process for your loved ones in the future.

Within our Litigation team, we also have dedicated lawyers specialising in inheritance disputes who will listen with empathy and advise you of the best course of action. We can assist you to explore out-of-court options like mediation or negotiation. Such an approach can often resolve issues without the stress and expense of going to Court. With clear legal guidance from the start, you may be able to reach a fair agreement quickly and efficiently. Of course, not all cases can be settled without the Court’s involvement, however our experienced team will be able to guide you through each stage of the process in order to achieve the most favourable available outcome.

Disclaimer: General Information Provided Only
Please note that the contents of this article are intended solely for general information purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. We cannot be held responsible for any loss resulting from actions or inactions taken based on this article.

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