What happens to my child’s inheritance if they die before me?

We are often asked what happens to a child’s inheritance if they are named in their parent’s will but die before that parent. Solicitor Chris Green looks at the legal principle that usually applies and the steps that would need to be taken for that principle to be overridden. For further guidance on a child’s inheritance where they predecease their parent then call our legal helpline on 0808 139 1596 or email us.

The law states that where a parent’s will leaves a benefit to a child who dies before them leaving children of their own, then unless the will states otherwise, those children of the intended beneficiary will be entitled to receive the inheritance that their parent was due to receive.

Crucially, for this principle not to apply the contrary intention must be set out in the will itself. Other evidence of the testator’s intention will not usually be acceptable.

In a recent case, a mother died leaving a will in which her estate passed to “such of my children as shall survive me in equal shares absolutely” . She had two children when the will was made, Sandra and David. Unfortunately, Sandra passed away just three months before her mother, leaving a daughter, Holly. Holly claimed that she was entitled to inherit Sandra’s share of the estate. 

David opposed Holly’s claim. He said he knew that his mother did not want any of her grandchildren to benefit under her will. He asked the court to consider evidence of conversations he’d had with his mother and his mother’s instructions to her solicitors when preparing the will. However, the court said that such evidence was inadmissible and focused instead upon whether the words “for such of my children as shall survive me in equal shares absolutely” showed a contrary intention to exclude the general principle. 

The judge concluded that the words were not sufficient to exclude the principle. Accordingly, a declaration was made that Holly was entitled to receive the 50% share of her grandmother’s estate that her mother, Sandra, would have received had she not predeceased.

The dispute could have been avoided if the will had included a survivorship clause. That is particularly so if, as David submitted, his mother had not wanted her grandchildren to inherit. It would not have been difficult for a suitable clause to that effect to be made.

If you are involved in a dispute relating to the interpretation of a will, then please contact our specialist lawyers on 0808 139 1596 or send us an email.

What happens to my child’s inheritance if they die before me?