The question of who can receive part of an 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.
Position if there is a valid will at the time of death
If the deceased had a valid will, the law dictates that the estate will be administered in line with their wishes, as set out in the will. In limited circumstances, it will be possible for certain individuals to initiate legal proceedings, which if successful, can change the way that an estate is administered, including the individuals who will benefit from the estate.
The type of claim brought will depend on the circumstances involved, and the person attempting to bring the claim. For an estranged child of the deceased, various claims may be available to them, including but not limited to challenging the validity of a will, or bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. We have written about these types of claims, and the various criteria that any claimant must satisfy in previous blogs, such as here and here. However, if there is a will in place which does not leave anything to an estranged child, the child will not be able to receive anything from the estate, and against the wishes of other beneficiaries, without first bringing legal proceedings.
Position if there is no valid will at the time of death
If the deceased did not have a valid will at their time of death, the position of an estranged child will be quite different. In the absence of a Will, the estate will be administered under the Intestacy Rules. Under these Rules, the relatives of the deceased will be placed into a list of priority, to determine how the estate will be divided. We have discussed these Rules in detail in our previous blog, found here.
The Rules do not consider the family relationships involved, and as such, no distinction will be made between a child who is estranged from the deceased and one who is not. As such, 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 dealt with under the Intestacy Rules, and all children, whether estranged or not, will receive an equal portion of the estate.