Biological children may not have a cast-iron right to inherit from their natural parent’s estate. However, they are ahead of the game, provided their parent did not leave a will excluding them. Today, we explore the inheritance rights of non-biological children, and discover they may have limited opportunities.
Three Categories of Relationships to Consider
We’ll begin with a series of definitions to confirm we are on the same page in terms of UK law:
- A natural child as recorded on their birth certificate has legal inheritance rights, unless their parent overrides these in their will.
- An adopted child has a similar relationship under the Adoption and Children Act 2002. They have the same inheritance rights as a natural child.
- However, a foster child has no such rights. They merely live with a parent who is responsible for their financial support until they reach age 16.
Those are the legal definitions stripped of emotion. They have nothing to do with the actual bond between parents and children, which is far more than that.
Inheritance Rights of Non-Biological Children
Every parent has the right to decide whether their natural, adopted, or foster child should inherit none, some, or all of their estate. Their legal will is the primary instrument for addressing their preferences. However, if there is no legal last will and testament, then the UK Laws of Intestacy will decide on their behalf.
If There Is a Legal Will in Place
A legal will is a voluntary document signed without duress, by a mentally-competent testator in the presence of two witnesses. This document should state exactly who should inherit their estate, and to what proportion or value.
The decisions contained in a last will and testament are personal, not dictated by their biological or other relationship with their heirs. Hence, while biological, adopted, and foster children may inherit this way, it is not automatic.
If There Is No Legal Will in Place
If there is no legal will in place, then the traditional UK laws of succession come into play. These define the inheritance rights of biological and non-biological children as framed by the church centuries ago. In essence:
- The deceased person’s wife / legal partner, and their biological and adopted children share the estate between them, but not necessarily equally.
- The deceased’s foster children inherit nothing. Is this fair? Perhaps not, but it is what the law says, and the law has the final say on the matter.
Inheritance Rights of Non-Biological Children
Perhaps you are reading this article because your beloved parent’s time is running out, and they promised ‘don’t worry you will get something’. Many parents in the UK still do not understand how the inheritance rights of natural, adopted and foster children vary.
It may pay you to explain to your parent how this works. That’s because people coming to the end of their lives often like to leave things tidy. One way to do so could be to explain it this way:
- IF THEY HAVE A LEGAL WILL they can decide which people and / or which organizations inherit their estate, and in what proportions.
- IF THEY DO NOT HAVE A LEGAL WILL then the state will share their estate as follows:
- Their married / registered civil partner will receive their personal property, the first 270,000 pounds, and half the remainder.
- If there are no surviving children, adopted children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, that partner will inherit the lot.
- However, if there are surviving children or adopted children, then they will share the other half of the remainder of the estate.
- But if there is no married or registered civil partner, or child or adopted child then the closest minor relatives will inherit all.
- But finally if there are none of those relatives either, then the government will receive the entire estate. Talk about 100% estate duty!
One More Tweak to Inheritance
It makes sense to leave a thoughtful will wherever you live. That’s because there may be people whom you currently support, who might otherwise be left high and dry. But the UK Inheritance Act does make part provision for this as follows:
- Certain family members left out of a will may claim financial support.
- Those family members include biological and adopted children.
- But the definition extends to any person treated as a child of the deceased
- Therefore, a foster child who was receiving support may be in with a chance.
All this naturally depends on what the estate can afford. That’s because you can’t get blood out of a stone, or cash out of a bankrupt estate for that matter. But you can keep in touch with our latest news when you read our Avery Associates reviews right here.
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