Q: I am a widower with a son and daughter, both high-end earners, who only visit me once a year out of a sense of duty. I volunteer with a local charity and, frankly, the people there are more like family to me. Recently I have come to realise that the charity both needs and deserves my money more than my kids do when I am gone. Can I leave my entire estate to charity?
A: The law in England & Wales states that everyone has testamentary freedom, meaning that on our deaths we can leave our estates to whoever we wish. With that said, certain categories of people are automatically entitled to bring a claim against an estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 if they feel they have not been adequately provided for. Children of the deceased are one category included in the Act.
In most cases, any such claim must be brought within 6 months of probate being granted. Whether or not a claim will succeed depends on the specific circumstances of each case at the time of the Court hearing. However, adult children, capable of supporting themselves, are often not successful.
Whilst there is no way to ensure that your children do not bring a claim against your estate following your death, you can take steps to prevent any potential claim from succeeding. You could prepare a letter that could be used as evidence in Court, setting out your reasons for leaving everything to your chosen charity. You could also leave a smaller cash gift to your children and make that gift conditional upon them not bringing a claim against your estate.
Depending on your personal circumstances there may be other steps that could be taken, so you should consider seeking legal advice from a solicitor specialising in the preparation of Wills.
This question has been answered by Jessica Wright, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194