Will claim Solicitors, specialist no win no fee will dispute and will contest Solicitors, explore whether adult stepchildren can bring a financial provision claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Can an adult stepchild or a non blood-related child bring a financial provision claim under section 2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975?

The simple answer is yes, adult stepchildren can bring claims against a stepparent’s estate for financial provision.

These are Will contest or Will dispute claims by adults for financial provision from a stepparent’s (or non-blood related parent’s estate). They are made under section 2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”) and usually in circumstances where no or insufficient provision has been made either under a Will or (where no Will) under the rules of intestacy (and the latter because of course they are not bloodrelated). For the actual statute, please see:

In our earlier blog (as follows) we briefly described how and why this Act of Parliament exists in the context of Will dispute or Will contest claims. Quite simply its’ purpose is to correct unfairness which is often created by virtue of the fundamental principle of English and Welsh law that an individual has absolute freedom to dispose of his/her estate as he/she sees fit.

The following refers for reference:

What is the criteria which allows adult stepchildren to bring a claim against a nonblood related “parent”?

The adult stepchildren are entitled to claim (usually) either by virtue of section 1(1)(d) or (e) of the Act. These subsections say as follows:

(d)any person (not being a child of the deceased) [F4who in relation to any marriage or civil partnership to which the deceased was at any time a party, or otherwise in relation to any family in which the deceased at any time stood in the role of a parent, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family;]

(e)any person (not being a person included in the foregoing paragraphs of this subsection) who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the
deceased; that person may apply to the court for an order under section 2 of this Act on the ground that the disposition of the deceased’s estate effected by his will or the law relating to intestacy, or the combination of his will and that law, is not such as to make reasonable financial provision for the applicant.

So in brief, the adult stepchild must prove the following to bring a claim:

• That he/she was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased prior to his/her death; or
• That in relation to any marriage, civil partnership or otherwise in relation to any family in which the deceased stood in the role of a parent to the stepchild, that he/she was treated by the deceased as a child of the family.

Pursuant to section 1(2A), “family” can include the deceased acting as a single parent.

What factors does the court look at to conclude that the stepchild requires financial provision and the extent of it?

There is a very good snapshot of this in the recent decision by HHJ Cawson QC in Higgins v Morgan and others 2021 EWHC 2846 (Ch):

Essentially the Court considers the facts and matters which are applied to adult child cases in relation to which reference is made to the Supreme Court decision in Ilott v The Blue Cross and others (No.2)[2018] AC 545:

A watering down of the requirement for “something else” or a so-called “moral claim” Of particular significance is that in Higgins (above), there seems to be a movement towards watering down the oft stated requirement (in adult child cases) that there has to be something more and/or a moral element to the claim, over and above a proximity of relationship between the deceased and the applicant. In Ilott for example, the well-known Judgment of
Oliver J in Re Coventry decd 1980 Ch 461 was cited with approval:

In re Coventry the passage cited above was followed almost immediately by another muchcited observation of Oliver J, at p 475: “It cannot be enough to say “here is a son of the deceased; he is in necessitous circumstances; there is property of the deceased which could be made available to assist him but which is not available if the deceased’s dispositions stand; therefore those dispositions do not make reasonable provision for the applicant.’ There must, as it seems to me, be established some sort of moral claim by the applicant to be maintained by the deceased or at the expense of his estate beyond the mere fact of a blood relationship, some reason why it can be said that, in the circumstances, it is unreasonable that no or no greater provision was in fact made.”

  1. Oliver J’s reference to moral claim must be understood as explained by the Court of Appeal in both In re Coventry itself and subsequently in In re Hancock, where the judge had held that there was no moral claim on the part of the claimant daughter. There is no requirement for a moral claim as a sine qua non for all applications under the 1975 Act, and Oliver J did not impose one. He meant no more, but no less, than that in the case of a claimant adult son well capable of living independently, something more than a qualifying relationship is needed to found a claim, and that in the case before him the additional something could only be a moral claim. That will be true of a number of cases. Clearly, the presence or absence of a moral claim will often be at the centre of the decision under the 1975 Act.”

In Higgins HHJ Cawson QC seems to have found it sufficient that:

• The deceased promised he would make provision for the applicant
• The deceased and the applicant were close
• The deceased intended to provide £10,000 to fund the purchase of camera equipment for the applicant.

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