20 August 2021
Should there be an inheritance discussion between parents and children?
Naadim Shamji, associate, B P Collins’ wills, trust and probate team says:
It is never a bad idea to discuss a child’s inheritance with them before you pass away. So many inheritance disputes arise because a child feels they have been forgotten about, or where they fail to understand why they are getting so little. A conversation had during one’s lifetime could avoid that misunderstanding, or indeed allow the beneficiary to get closure knowing the parent’s intentions.
It is of course not always the case that a parent wishes to discuss such matters with a child before they die, and so a letter of wishes setting out the parent’s reasons can be an equally valuable document to give a child closure.
Even if a parent sets out their thoughts before they have passed away, it always remains open for a child to bring a claim against the estate where reasonable financial provision has not been made towards their maintenance, even if ultimately the challenge is unsuccessful. Such claims tend to have higher prospects of success where there is evidence of some dependency of the child on the resources of the parent, particularly in cases where the child is a minor, or where the child is affected by disability or in receipt of state entitlements such as housing benefit. Ultimately, we never know what our, or the child’s, circumstances will be when we die. Therefore leaving them at least something is often better than leaving them nothing to avoid such a claim.
Sharon Heselton, senior associate, B P Collins’ wills, trust and probate team offers advice to children on how to have end of life planning discussions with parents if they’re more reluctant:
The most challenging part of having the discussion about end-of-life planning with your parent may be starting it off. It is perfectly normal to feel uneasy with topics connected with death or you may be concerned that the conversation will make them worried or annoyed. Here are some tips:
- Plan the questions you would like to ask in advance. This will help to ensure that all-important points have been covered so that you will not be annoyed if something significant has not been discussed.
- Choose a good time to have the discussion. Sometimes a family gathering may work as everyone that you want will be there. However, if your loved one isn’t well or significant changes are afoot, you may need to call an impromptu meeting to discuss future plans.
- Choose the right place to have the conversation that will help them feel comfortable. Maybe it’s in their own house or garden. Perhaps a walk might be better if you think having a conversation face to face will be too difficult.
- Many people have a list of things that they would like to do before they reach a certain age or pass away. Perhaps this could be created together with your loved one and then the conversation could progress more naturally to thinking about end of life planning.
- Maybe you know of someone who passed away without leaving a Will, which resulted in a family dispute. This could be the encouragement your loved one needs to get their affairs in order to help protect their family and friends and avoid any feuds after they’ve gone.
- Although this may be a very serious subject, try to keep it as upbeat as possible. This is a positive move in the right direction, that gives your loved one the chance to make their wishes clear after they’re no longer around.
Putting in place a Will is a relatively straightforward process, and it pays to have a professionally drawn up Will, precisely to minimise the chances of a successful challenge being brought by disappointed beneficiaries against your estate. A Will can be made at any time, but is often made after children are born, or a major asset is acquired.