9 September 2019

The Inheritance Rights of a Step-Child

Geoffrey Armstrong

A question that gets asked a lot in estate law is: Does a step-child receive an inheritance on the death of a step-parent if there is no Will?

If you pass away before the step-parent of your child, that child cannot automatically inherit from the step-parent. This may be regardless of any contributions you and/or the child may have made to the family wealth and thus the wealth of the step-parent during your lifetimes. This can result in some very unfair and inequitable situations.

A person dies ‘intestate’ if they do so without having left a valid Will. The Succession Act lays down the laws on who will inherit when someone dies intestate. In most cases, the deceased’s estate will pass to the nearest surviving relatives and most commonly this will be a spouse and children.

A step-child is not considered for this purpose and has no automatic right of inheritance from a step-parent. These rules cannot be challenged directly.

To gain any direct benefit from the death of a step-parent, the step-child would need to bring a claim against the estate via the Supreme Court and prove that reasonable financial provision should be awarded. This is not an easy task in most cases and such claims may be stressful, time-consuming and costly without any guarantee of success. The Court would need to take into account many factors past and present before being persuaded to make such an award.

In conclusion, if a step-parent wishes to provide for a step-child on death this must be done by way of a properly drawn and valid Will otherwise such wishes will simply not be met.

If you’d like to learn more about the laws surrounding inheritance, or need some estate planning advice, please contact our team today.

 


Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).

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