Making a successful inheritance claim against stepmother’s estate. Call the experts on 0808 139 1596 our email details of your case for a free assessment.
Our client, Mr S, was the stepson of Mrs S following her marriage to Mr S’s father, K, in 1976. K died in 1995 leaving the entirety of his estate to Mrs S who then died herself, having executed a new Will.
Under the terms of her last Will Mrs S appointed her sister B and her niece N as executors. She gifted £10,000 to B with the residue of the estate to N and her brother C as well B’s grandchildren S and Ch.
The estate was declared for probate to be worth over £600,000.00.
Our client had concerns that Mrs S had executed her last Will only days before her death when she was suffering from a brain tumour. We investigated the possibility of challenging the validity of the Will, but he did not proceed with that claim because it would have necessitated him also challenging Mrs S’s earlier Will (under which he also did not receive sufficient provision). Challenging one Will was hard enough but two was much more difficult. Accordingly, Mr S proceeded solely with a claim under the Inheritance Act.
Mr S firstly had to prove that he was eligible to pursue an inheritance claim against stepmother’s estate. As a stepson he was not automatically entitled to claim under the Inheritance Act in the same way a child is automatically entitled to do so. Mr S relied on the fact that his father had left his mother for Mrs S when he was only 16 and his relationship with his father and Mrs S grew to be a strong one. After his father’s death, his relationship with Mrs S flourished not least because he had promised his father that he would look after her like she was his own mother. They often went on holiday together and Mrs S ensured she gifted some of the proceeds of his father’s French property to Mr S when he died.
Settlement terms were reached at mediation whereby Mr S received one quarter of the net estate, inclusive of payment of his legal costs. However, as S and Ch were minor children this was not the end of the matter and it was necessary to apply to the court for approval of the terms of settlement (a requirement the court rules insist upon where money due to children is being varied). The Court approved the terms of settlement and the administration of the estate was then completed.
The facts of this case are not uncommon where second families are concerned. We are regularly consulted by stepchildren whose birth parent has left their estate to a new spouse who then passes the estate on to their own family by a previous marriage – disinheriting the stepchild.
Stepchild Inheritance Act claims can be more difficult than conventional claims due to the added hurdle of proving that an applicant satisfies the “child of the family” definition. However, this case is a good example of how obtaining enough background evidence to support the nature of that relationship can make the difference in encouraging parties to settle a claim without extensive litigation costs reducing the assets of the estate.
If you are a stepchild and would like more information about making an inheritance claim against a stepmother’s or stepfather’s estate then give us a call for a free assessment of your case and details of no win, no fee funding on 0808 139 1596