Estranged children are always entitled to claim an inheritance from their parents’ estates regardless of whether there is a Will or not. Whether this claim is successful will depend on their individual circumstances.
When someone writes a Will in England and Wales, they have testamentary freedom. This means that they are entitled to name whoever they wish as a beneficiary and are not legally required to provide for anyone, even children.
However, there are laws that place checks on this freedom to ensure that those who are in need can claim an inheritance depending on their relation to the deceased. Any children, estranged or otherwise, are entitled to make a claim on their parents’ estates if they feel that they have not been sufficiently provided for in the Will.
To make a claim on someone’s estate, you must apply to the Court. This must be done within six months of the grant of probate being acquired. After six months, it is likely that the executor will start releasing funds to the beneficiaries, at which point a claim would complicate the process.
The Court will have several questions for you before they accept your claim and grant you provisions in the Will. They will first need to determine whether you have been adequately provided for in the terms of the Will. Their decision on this matter will depend entirely on the Will and your own personal circumstances. If they decree that you have not been adequately provided for, the Court will then need to decide whether they should intervene and what kind of provision they should make for you. If you are successful in your claim, the terms of the Will should be amended, and the executor will be legally required to honour these amendments.
It should be noted that if the Will was written with a legal professional such as a Solicitor, it might be harder to make a claim against it as it will be more well-written and legally defensible.
When someone dies ‘intestate’ (without leaving a valid Will) their estate is divided up and distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy, which place relatives in order of priority with spouses coming first and children coming second. The Rules of Intestacy do not consider any difference between children based on their personal relationship to the deceased, meaning that estranged children will be entitled to inherit just as much as children who had a good relationship with the deceased.
If the deceased had a spouse or civil partner who outlived them, they will be entitled to inherit everything up to £250,000. If the estate is worth less than £250,000, therefore, the spouse or civil partner will inherit all of it and none will be given to the children, estranged or otherwise.
If the estate is worth more than £250,000, everything up to £250,000 will be inherited by the spouse or civil partner, and anything over this will be divided up between the spouse and the children, with 50% going to the spouse and 50% going to the children.
If there is no spouse or civil partner, the children will inherit the entire estate. The estate will be divided up equally between the children regardless of their relationship with the deceased.