Stephens Scown’s specialist Inheritance and Trust Disputes team are increasingly finding that clients are being referred to them by local accountants and financial advisors, who are undertaking annual reviews and spot a need for specialist legal advice on how to best protect against potential claims on death.

Hayley Bundey, Senior Associate in the Exeter Office, lists 3 top clients who Accountants and IFAs should look out for when undertaking annual reviews and are most in need of legal advice regarding potential inheritance claims on death:-

 

  1. Unmarried relationships: Is your client in an unmarried relationship? If so, they should consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement to prevent their partner bringing unwanted claims on death particularly claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”). Such claims can severely reduce or even wipe out your client’s children’s inheritance at least for the remainder of your unmarried partner’s lifetime. There is little point in your client building up wealth to pass onto their children only for it to end up in the wrong hands following their death.

Inheritance issues arising from unmarried relationships can include a belief in the “myth of the common law marriage”. Cohabitation Agreements can benefit your clients under these circumstances, and recent cases show that couples living without such agreements can have contested inheritances further down the line.

 

  1. Estranged children: Does your client have any children (or step-children) with whom they have a difficult relationship? If so and they would not want that child to receive anything from their Estate on death, they must make a Will to ensure their Estate is not distributed under the Intestacy Rules and should take early advice on the impact of including a forfeiture clause in respect of that child.

A famous inheritance case involving estrangement was the long-running and notorious saga of the Ilott v Mitson / Ilott v Blue Cross adult child 1975 Act claim (which went through every Court in the country and took some 13 years to resolve from the date of death!).

 

  1. Multiple marriages: Has your client remarried? If so, they must update their Will. Many individuals do not realise marriage revokes a Will unless prepared in specific contemplation of their marriage and this often results in an unwanted outcome on death.

Various claims can be pursued against an Estate upon an unwanted outcome at death, such as challenging the validity of a will and claiming under the 1975 inheritance act.

 

There are various eligible Claimants under the 1975 Act, including spouses, former spouses (who haven’t remarried), step-children, grandchildren (treated as a child of their family) and financial dependants (who could be unrelated to your client). Our advice would therefore always be to err on the side of caution and refer your clients to our specialist Inheritance and Trust Disputes Team who can help your clients do all they can to protect their assets for the loved ones they want to inherit them.