Contrary to the beliefs of outspoken celebrities, such as Simon Cowell and Nigella Lawson, the majority of the parents I meet still want to provide for their family.
This is evidenced by the increasing numbers of life interest trust wills we are creating for couples who own property. This type of will can be used to ensure that should one parent die, their interest in the house passes down to any children on the death of the survivor.
One of the questions I ask couples is whether they wish to leave everything to each other, so their partner has the flexibility to use all assets as they see fit. However, concerns are often raised about potential threats to the estate, for example, what would happen if care home fees were to eat into any remaining funds?
This willingness to see children inherit is not to say my clients don’t give due consideration to whether their offspring deserve their hard earned capital.
I have experienced situations where children have gone off the rails or have not, in their parents’ eyes, worked hard enough at making their own way in life. This has prompted issues of disinheritance that could become contentious. Children – even adult ones – can make a claim under the Inheritance and Family Provisions Act and if they are in any way dependent on their parents or in a state of depravity, this strengthens their case.
What shocks clients most is that even if they make a will leaving assets to whomever they choose, the court can override these wishes after their death.
As a solicitor, the best way I can reduce the impact of such a claim is to show that parents are aware of the extent of their wealth and have given reasonable consideration to their children’s circumstances. I can then demonstrate that notwithstanding these factors, they have decided for whatever reason, not to leave assets to their children.
University fees and prohibitive house prices are also changing parents’ attitudes to their estate. A growing number would rather see children benefit while they are still around to enjoy it and this is giving rise to what is being dubbed a living inheritance.
In Bakewell, where I am based, it is fair to say we have a diverse outlook on the distribution of assets. The majority of wills I prepare still follow the pattern of spouse, then children, but as I mentioned earlier, parents do need to consider their relationships with all people who could make a potential claim on their estate and current litigation trends.
Clearly, we don’t expect you to be experts on probate legislation, which is why if you have assets of any type or value, it is imperative to seek help from a solicitor when drawing up a will.