Parents generally owe no legal duty financially to maintain their adult children. That principle proved decisive in a recent case reviewed by Abigail Sunter, in which a businessman, who was worth almost £2.2 million when he died, left not a penny to his daughters.
Having enjoyed a rewarding career in accountancy and merchant banking, the man died at the age of 68 from a brain tumour. By his will, he left almost all of his estate to his second wife. He bequeathed nothing to the two daughters of his first marriage, which had lasted for 34 years. The daughters’ response was to launch proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, seeking reasonable provision from his estate.
Dismissing their claims, however, the High Court noted that they were approaching middle age and were in a very different position from dependent children. During his lifetime, their father had given each of them a six-figure sum on the sale of a property, thereby making generous provision for them.
He thereafter consistently declined any requests they made for money so that, by the time of his death, he had disclaimed any further financial responsibility for them. Both were in good health and had continuing potential to earn their own livings. They also had actual or potential alternative sources of financial support. Overall, the Court ruled that neither daughter had established that, as at the date of their father’s death, they had a need for financial provision from his estate. Any shortfall in their maintenance needs could be met, if necessary, by making adjustments to their lifestyles.
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