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Blended Families and the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975

A Perfect Storm?

The traditional family structure is changing, with more second marriages leading to both spouses having children from previous relationships. This can provide fertile grounds for a dispute, particularly if there is a lack of family bonding when one parent passes away.

This situation is being exacerbated by generational issues. Those dying now may have acquired significant assets by their date of death, particularly individuals living in the South-East of the Country where property prices are higher.

These social factors have led to a marked increase in challenges to wills and to claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents Act) 1975.

Common Examples of potential problems in Blended Families

  1. Second marriage – all to new spouse

The first spouse to die leaves everything to their new spouse. This is tax efficient. There is no inheritance tax payable on the first death. However, the surviving spouse who has a standard “mirror will” with their spouse is then free to change their will.

Often this could mean that the children of the deceased spouse are disinherited in favour of these of the survivor. There may have been an understanding not to change the will, but “blood is thicker than water”. Alternatively, the children of the surviving spouse could put them under pressure to change their Will, or they could fall out with their deceased spouses’ children.

A full and frank discussion at family level when Wills are put in place could help in avoiding sleepwalking into such a situation.

  1. Stepchildren and the Intestacy Rules

Many people still die Intestate, without leaving a will. Under the rules of Intestacy stepchildren do not inherit from a deceased person’s estate. They could however fall into the category of a claimant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 if they were treated as a child of the deceased or were dependent upon them at the date of their death. This would apply to adult children as well as minors.

Again, the solution here would be to prepare a will after giving careful consideration to the position of both sides of the blended family and the obligations of the testators towards them.

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Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.