Q: My mum and step-dad married when I was two. Although he didn’t adopt me he’s the only dad I’ve ever known and he’s treated me exactly like my half siblings born to him and mum.
We all enjoy a good family relationship and mum and dad have said they expect us to split everything they have equally between us when they’re gone. The problem is they haven’t made Wills (they think they’re too young!) and I’m worried that the law would not recognise me equally with my half brother and sister if mum dies first.
A: If your step-father had officially adopted you when you were a child you would have been equally recognised with your step siblings under the Rules of Intestacy which exist for cases where the deceased dies intestate, i.e. without making a Will.
The rules set out relatives of the deceased who can inherit in order of priority. Heading the list is the deceased's spouse or civil partner, followed by the deceased's children. So even if your step-father had Parental Responsibility for you from aged two and raised you the same way as his biological children, in the eyes of the law you would not inherit from him if he did not leave a Will and your mother died first.
Under the Inheritance Act certain people, including biological children, adopted children and persons treated as a child of those deceased after 1st October 2014, are entitled to make a claim on the deceased’s estate for financial provisions. A “child of the family” faces the additional difficulty of proving eligibility by showing that the deceased was married to their parent and assumed the role of a parent to them.
So the only sure way around the potential problem you face would be for your step-father to make a Will now and name you as a beneficiary.