Can a so-called love child bring a claim against a deceased parent’s estate?
Spears Wealth Management magazine looked at the issue that arose during a recent High Court case. It related to the estate of a wealthy man (now dead), his widow, his mistress and their lovechild.
People who feel they have been left out of a will unfairly can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which is apparently known by some as the “Mistresses’ Charter”.
The Act asks, is the claimant qualified to bring a claim? If so, does the will make reasonable provision for the claimant and if not, what provision would be judged reasonable? Claims are usually brought by spouses, civil partners, children, unmarried partners and people being ‘maintained’ by the deceased.
A love child is classified in the children category, but if his or her parentage is disputed, then the court can order DNA testing. If the testing isn’t feasible or inconclusive, the love child can bring a claim under the category that they are being maintained by the dead person.
According to the Spears Wealth Management article, the question is then if the will has made reasonable financial provision for a love child. The threshold test for this would be about how much money is needed for maintenance, a relative concept. Such cases are so variable that the court’s loose definition is for maintenance to be more than subsistence, but less than the amount needed for a claimant’s general benefit or welfare.
The Act gives a list of factors to be considered when determining what is a reasonable financial provision, which include the size of the deceased’s estate and the claimant’s current and potential financial needs. For all children, the court needs to consider how a child is being or might expect to be educated, which is relevant if the deceased parent was paying the child’s school or university fees, or was expected to do so.
The article points out the claims from adult children can be more difficult.
If a will hasn’t made sufficient financial provision, the issue is then how much, if anything, the love child is entitled to. Decisions are made on an individual basis, but a love child could only ever claim an amount of the estate that is reasonable for maintenance, including his or her education. This will be balanced against the needs of other heirs.
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