The inheritance rights of children – and grandchildren, stepchildren, and adopted children – depend quite a bit on the situation. Let’s take a look.


What are the inheritance rights of children if you make a will?

In England and Wales, you have no obligation to leave anything to your family in your will. You can choose who you want to leave your money, property and other assets to.

That said, if you do completely disinherit your children (biological, step or adopted), they can challenge your will after you die. This is down to some provisions laid out in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. These say that:

  • any child of the person who has died (includes adopted children)
  • any person who was treated as though they were their child (i.e. a stepchild raised by you); and
  • anyone who was financially dependent on the person who has died for their basic needs (could be a grandchild, if you’re supporting them financially)

can apply for “reasonable financial provision”. The amount they’ll get will depend on their relationship with you, and the extent to which they’re dependent on your financial support.

If you are disinheriting your children, it’s a good idea to put in writing why, and keep this with your will. This can help your chosen beneficiaries argue their case if the will is challenged.


What are the inheritance rights of children if you DON’T make a will?

If you die without a will, your estate (that’s everything you own) will be transferred to your closest relative, according to intestacy law. Here’s how that affects the inheritance rights of children in England and Wales…


If you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse (or partner) will get all or most of your estate.

If your estate is worth less than £270,000, they will get everything, and your children will get nothing.

But if your estate is worth more than that, your spouse or partner will get the first £270,000, any personal belongings you have, plus half of whatever is left over. Your children will get the other half.


If you are NOT married or in a civil partnership, everything will be split between your children.

It will be split equally. Your children will also have an equal right to settle your estate.


The inheritance rights of an adopted child are the same as those of a biological child.

The intestacy rules for adopted children match those above: the law doesn’t distinguish between biological and adopted kids. More on this below.


If one of your children has died before you, THEIR children (your grandchildren) will inherit their share.

Again, it will be split equally between them. Your grandchildren’s right to the inheritance when their parents are deceased is usually the same for any gifts left in a will, too, unless the will says otherwise. We’ll talk more about the inheritance rules for grandchildren below.


If you have stepchildren, they will get nothing.

The inheritance rights of stepchildren are really limited. Unlike adopted children, they don’t have any automatic inheritance at all unless you write a will.

Remember! The rules are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can find out more about the laws of intestacy here.


What are the inheritance rights of grandchildren?

If you write a will, you can make sure your grandchildren get whatever you would like them to have if you weren’t around. When there’s no will, grandchildren can’t inherit unless their parents have died. Direct descendants have priority, though: if children and grandchildren have died, great-grandchildren can inherit.


What are the inheritance rights of adopted children?

When a child is adopted, they’re given the exact same rights as a biological child of those parents. So, all the rules on surviving children’s rights above apply equally to adopted children.

You may well be wondering about their birth parents: can an adopted child inherit from biological parents? In these cases, the answer is usually no – not unless their biological parents passed away before they were adopted.


What are the inheritance rights of stepchildren?

Stepchildren don’t have any rights when someone dies without a will. This makes it really important for parents in blended families to make wills!

After all, if you die without a will, most of your wealth will go to your spouse. And if they then die without a will, their wealth (and yours) will go to their biological children – leaving yours with nothing. And vice versa. So, it’s well worth planning your wills together.


Make a will today

It’s so, so easy (and affordable) to make a will online with Beyond. Just answer a few simple questions about your wishes, and we’ll draft you a legally binding will that’s checked by experts.

Making a will with Beyond takes just 15 minutes. And at £90 for a single will and £135 for two, it’s hundreds less than a solicitor. Start making your will here today!

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