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Landmark decision brings UK inheritance law closer to NZ practice

Under the Family Protection Act, adult children are able to claim from their parent’s Will if it makes inadequate provision for them.  The Court’s attitude to claims by adult children has varied over the years but claims have never been restricted to minors.  The law in the UK is similar but the attitude to adult children has been harsher.  The UK Court of Appeal has now made it easier for adult children to challenge the Wills of their parents.

Melita Jackson died in 2004 leaving an adult child, Heather IIott.  Mother and daughter had been estranged since Heather left home to live with her boyfriend when she was 17.  Mrs Jackson left a letter with her Will saying that because of this she did not want Heather to receive anything and left all her money (close to a million dollars) to animal charities.  Heather lives in social housing and draws state benefits.  After a series of legal battles, Heather reached the Court of Appeal which ruled that Mrs Jackson had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh.”  Heather was awarded a third of her mother’s Estate.

Under New Zealand law, claims of adult children are considered on their individual merits depending on the circumstances of the case.  The Family Protection Act will not put right every case of inequality but it will do its best to provide proper maintenance for a child who has been deprived under his or her parent’s Will, taking into account the value of the Estate and the claims of that child’s brothers and sisters.

This post has been written by Amanda Crehan who manages our specialist estates team including family protection matters.  For further advice, please contact Amanda on 03 544 7888.


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