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Disinheriting the Children

Daniel Craig has become the latest in a line of celebrities to announce that he does not intend to leave his wealth to his children. He told Saga magazine “I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation” and branded inheritance “Distasteful” in an interview with Candis magazine, saying “My philosophy is: get rid of it or give it away before you go.”

Similarly, Bill Gates has previously said that he intended to give only a “miniscule portion” of his fortune to his 3 children.

Baroness Karren Brady of The Apprentice has expressed similar sentiments and wrote in her column in The Sun that “The best way to help [children] learn the value of money is by not giving them too much, and encouraging them to earn”.

While most people do not have levels of wealth matching these celebrities to leave to their children (or not), some people do decide not to leave their estates to their children. This could be to encourage their financial independence or due to disputes or estrangements within the family.

So what should you be aware of if you decide not to leave your estate to your children?

Unlike in many countries around the world, in the UK, we have testamentary freedom, which means that we are free to choose to whom we leave our estates with few legal restrictions. If you have what you consider to be good reasons not to include your children in your Will, you can exclude them. However, this does not mean that your family will accept your choice when you are no longer here and Wills can be subject to challenge in the courts.

Family members or dependants who were provided for financially by the deceased during their lifetime can bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 stating that they should have been provided for within the Will.

Family members, spouses, cohabitees and those mentioned in a Will can also bring a challenge if they believe that the deceased lacked the capacity to prepare a Will, did not sign it properly, were coerced into signing it or if they believe that the Will is fraudulent.

Challenges against a Will are not always successful but they can take a very long time to deal with and be very expensive, meaning that the residuary estate left for distribution could be worth significantly less than would have initially been envisaged.

This of course does not take into account the impact of the bad feeling, upset and division within families that could be caused by family members being excluded from and/or trying to contest a Will.

However, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of a challenge being made or of such a challenge succeeding.

If this is an issue which affects you and you would like advice as to how best to proceed, contact me Elizabeth Shepperd in our Private Client department or call 01825 762281.