Senior counsel | UKView profile
Modern families have changed enormously – with cohabitation, LGBTQ+ relationships, stepchildren, adoption and surrogacy all common – and inheritance law has not kept up.
We have seen this leave people really badly off – for example, a bereaved same-sex partner in the US can find themselves being turned out of their home at an already distressing time. In one case, a British woman who had nursed her partner of 25 years through a terminal illness was left with nothing.
One positive is that we are starting to see the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) having an effect on the interpretation of wills and trusts. As lawyers this means that we may be able to secure the court’s help to include members of a modern family who might otherwise be left out.
The situation requires urgent action – not least since there are many more social changes occurring that will create even more complex issues around succession. If a country cannot ensure that millions of long-term cohabitees can inherit from one another, it stands little chance of protecting surrogate children, or handling situations where embryos created through IVF are part of an inheritance.
In the meantime we are working case by case, doing our best to challenge discriminatory wills and persuade courts to vary trusts so that members of modern families do not lose out because of antiquated rules.
The situation requires urgent action – not least since there are many more social changes occurring that will create even more complex issues around succession.
⁵ Goodrich v AB  EWHC 81 (Ch)