Inheritance Disputes and Caring For Elderly Parents

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Disputing a will

There is currently much controversy about how we are going to care for our increasingly elderly population. Inevitably this will, to some extent, result in children or other family members stepping into the role of carer. What we have not considered is how this may impact upon inheritance issues, and particularly, disputed will scenarios.

Historically, it was common for children to care for their elderly parents, but this was perhaps during the period when women did not work, or at least that was not so much the norm as it is now.

Caring for an elderly relative now, will inevitably often mean giving up potentially a career or some form of independence. Often the ageing parents will feel guilty. That may lead to promises of that carer child receiving “more” than an equal share with their siblings by way of inheritance. That may take the form of a simple discussion, what we tend to term as a “promise”. It may result in a challenge to the elderly parents' will, which the parent has decided would disinherit all or part of the other children’s inheritance. It may result in gifts made to the carer child during the elderly parent’s lifetime.

All of these scenarios are fraught with danger. If a promise is made and the carer child relies upon this promise, that may give rise to a claim that the Estate must adhere to that promise. If the elderly parent goes so far as to change his or her will to reflect that promise, one would think that would be an end to the matter. Inevitably, however, this may well give rise to claims from the other children that the parent was coerced or maybe lacked capacity by the time the will was made. Finally, a gift during the lifetime of the parent to one child is again likely to result in a potential argument that some sort of pressure may have been brought to bear to the extent the carer child has abused the relationship of trust and confidence to their own advantage.

It goes without saying there are cases where a specific child has every right to receive an enhanced share of their parent’s estate, and on many occasions, this reflects the parent’s true wishes. There are also many cases when the other siblings recognise the added contribution made by the carer child and are content for their inheritance to reflect this. Sadly, however, this is often not the case and a return to family care of our ageing population may result in claims, such as disputed wills, increasing over the coming decades.

If you require advice on any of the above, please contact Amanda Melton at IBB Solicitors on 01494 790 047 or amanda.melton@ibblaw.co.uk.