Inheritance is an area that will touch all of our lives at some point. You may be the son or daughter of a parent who has died, you may be the executor of somebody’s estate or you may be a parent wondering about your moral duty to your children and how best to write your will to prevent disputes after you die. This free legal advice article will tell you the most important things you need to know on the topic of children’s inheritance.
Following the death of a parent, a dispute over inheritance can be a very difficult time for a family. Children are mourning their parent and there may be added hurt if somebody is left out of the will. Alternatively, a son or daughter may have expected to receive more. Maybe there had been a promise made to them or maybe they had made sacrifices to look after their parents before they died. Whatever the reason, where a son or daughter feels they have been unfairly treated, this can be a very difficult time for them.
1. Inheritance law – the moral duty of parents to provide for their children.
As regards inheritance rights for children, there is no automatic right for a person to receive anything in their parent’s will. However, S117 of the Succession Act speaks about the “moral duty” of parents to provide for their children. If a court thinks that a parent has not made “proper provision” for their child then some money may be given to that child from the deceased’s assets. There are strict time limits for this type of case and you should speak to us if you think your parent has not made proper provision for you or that their will was unfair and you want to claim inheritance.*
2. A sample inheritance case
The following is an example of a successful claim in 2007 in the courts where a child brought a case arguing that the inheritance he received from his parent was not fair. Anthony worked on his father’s farm practically all his life and was paid a low salary for this work. The idea was that his father would work up enough money to buy each of his sons a farm, but this didn’t work out in the end. When he got married, Anthony’s father let him live in a house on some of his lands. The house was in bad repair and Anthony put a lot of work into refurbishing it. Some years later he stopped taking a wage from his father and farmed one of the family farms instead for income (we will call this farm Brownacre). He also helped out on another of his father’s farms (we will call this farm Blackacre). When his father died, he left the house that Anthony lived in and the Blackacre farm to another one of his sons, Conor. Before he died he had divided the Brownacre farm between Anthony, Conor and another son Barry and they sold it and split the proceeds.
The result for Anthony was that he had no home to live in and no lands to farm for income, after over twenty years farming for his father. He had a wife and child and had relied on his father’s land for income all his life. He made a claim arguing that his father had failed in his moral duty to make proper provision for him. Even though Anthony had been left things in the will (some money and some farming equipment) and given gifts during his lifetime (a third of the Brownacre farm and being allowed live in the house), the Court agreed that the father should have made better provision for him. Instead of the gift of £40,000 that Anthony received in the will, the Court ordered that he receive €750,000 instead.
3. What is “proper provision”?
With regard to children in wills, the court can decide that a parent has not made “proper provision” for their child as seen above. “Proper provision” has been described as a duty to house, clothe, maintain, feed and educate the child, ensure medical, dental and chemists’ bills are paid for until the child finishes education and provide “some provision by way of advancement for them for life”. In essence your parents should help set you up in the world as much as they are able to.