Minor children awarded provision under the Inheritance Act, despite estrangement

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Minor children awarded provision under the Inheritance Act, despite estrangement

The High Court, on 16th April 2021, handed down judgment in the case of Re R (Deceased) 2021 EWHC 936 Ch.

This is an interesting decision concerning a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Act’), made by a mother, on behalf of her two teenage children.

Background to this case: Facts

In this case, the Deceased (‘R’) passed away, aged 41, due to a severe lung problem. R was married to N, but they had divorced in 2012. R and N had two children together, J and H, the teenage claimants in this case. R then had a new relationship with S, the first defendant in this case, up until his death. S was also acting as the sole executor of the estate in question.

Following the divorce, R paid for child maintenance in relation to J and H. He missed a payment on one occasion due to being in hospital, and when he made efforts to restore payments, he found that the account he was paying into was shut. Following this, in 2013, there was an application made by N against R, claiming for child maintenance payments. However, R was then informed that the application was no longer being pursued.

J and H then moved away with N. Initially, R would speak to his children every week, but contact ceased altogether at some point in 2014.

The Deceased’s original will was made in 2013. In this will, he appointed his parents, M and L (the second defendants,) as executors, along with the partners at the solicitors firm where he made the will. R gave his shares in his businesses to his parents and the residue of his estate was to be left to J and H.

The Deceased subsequently changed his will in 2018. He left shares in both his companies to his parents, (M and L,) and his partner, S. M, L and S were all defendants in this case. In the 2018 will, R made no provision for his teenage children, J and H. When making the 2018 will, R made a statement recording the reasons why he did not wish his children to benefit from his estate. His main reasons were that the children had moved away with N and her new partner to start a new life in Scotland. He also referred to N no longer pursuing him for child maintenance and the fact that he had not been able to get in contact with J and H for three years. He said it was therefore made clear that N did not want him to be a part of his children’s life and therefore he did not believe that J and H would require any financial provision upon his death.

The Claim

N brought a claim on behalf of her teenage children, J and H, under the Act for reasonable financial provision. J and H were the claimants in this case, but as they were minors when the claim was brought, their mother brought the claim on their behalf as their litigation friend. The case was put forward that the maintenance needs of her children following R’s death, should be met from R’s estate.

Court’s decision

In an interesting decision, the judge found that J and H were entitled to reasonable financial provision for their maintenance, from R’s estate.

Despite the fact that J and H were no longer in contact with their father, and N had decided not to pursue him for child maintenance payments, the judge still found in favour of J and H. Furthermore, the judge was not convinced by the argument put forward by the defendants that the claimants should not receive anything from the estate because J and H were now being maintained by N and her new partner.

However, the judge limited the sum that J and H were to receive to £186,000 from the £814,000 estate. Despite the fact that J and H were entitled to financial provision from R’s estate the judge, in making his decision, felt that it wouldn’t seem right that the entire maintenance obligation and responsibility towards J and H, should be shifted to the Deceased in the consequence of his death, when child maintenance was not sought when he was alive.


This judgment is significant in showing the approach that the courts take when assessing claims by teenage children under the Act. The judge in this case highlighted that it was inappropriate for the defendants to try and rely on the fact that the Deceased failed to provide child support, even if not called upon to do so. The inherent father-child relationship was a key consideration here, with an assumed position of responsibility, even if maintenance was not sought in the later years of his life. Even if J and H were not supported by their father in the later years, the obligations arose out of the fact that he was their father and they were minors at the time of his death. The judge considered that neither J nor H could be held responsible for the unhappy consequences of their parents’ divorce and therefore they were entitled to financial provision from R’s estate.

The judge also appeared to draw a distinction between teenage children applicants and adult children applicants and it appears the court will be more generous when considering the claim of minor children.

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Written by:

Ian Johnston is a Partner located in Manchester in our Will and Trust Disputes department

View other posts by Ian Johnston

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