As with many situations following a death, who lays claim on the estate will depend on whether or not the person who has passed away had a valid will in place at the time of the death.

If there was a valid will at the time of death

If the deceased had a valid will, the will and estate will be distributed in line with their wishes. There are some very limited circumstances in which legal proceedings can be actioned, which if successful, can change the individuals who will benefit from the estate.

For an estranged child of the deceased, they may be able to challenge the validity of a will, or make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, if there is a will in place which specifically does not leave anything to an estranged child, they will not be able to receive anything from the estate without first bringing legal proceedings.

If there was no valid will at the time of death

If the deceased did not have a valid will at their time of death then the position is more challenging. In the absence of a Will, the law states that an estate will be administered under the Intestacy Rules. These rules state that the relatives of the deceased will be placed in order of priority, to determine how the estate will be divided.

The rules do not consider personal family situations and so no distinction will be made between a child who is estranged from the deceased and one who is not. So, if a parent has died without a will, and in the absence of a claim being brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, the estate will be equally divided amongst all children, whether estranged or not.

To avoid complications, it is vital to have a will in place so that your estate goes to its intended people and does not leave complications for those left behind.