In Landy v. Landy Estate, (1991) 60 B.C.L.R (2d) 282 (C.A.), the court said yes – a parent may have a moral obligation to include an adult child in his or her will.
Some examples of circumstances which bring forth a moral obligation on the part of parent to leave an inheritance to an adult children are: a disability on the part of an adult child; an assured expectation on the part of an adult child; or an implied expectation on the part of an adult child, arising from the size of the parent’s estate or from the adult child’s treatment during the parent’s lifetime.
William and Emily Landy had one child, Larry, who was born in 1933. Emily died in 1967. William married his second wife, Amy, in 1972, when William was 73 and Amy was 62. Amy had her own assets from her first marriage. William and Amy kept their assets and financial affairs separate.
William died in 1988 leaving an estate valued at approximately $160,000. By the terms of William’s will, prepared in 1978, Larry received only $10,000. The rest of the estate went to Amy.
Amy, who had been very ill for many years, died one year after William, leaving her own estate of approximately $81,000 (not including what William left to her). By the terms of Amy’s will, her estate went to her biological children from her first marriage. Larry was not a beneficiary of Amy’s will.
Larry brought action seeking a larger share of his father’s estate. The task for the court was to decide whether William made adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of his adult child by leaving him a bequest of $10,000 out of an estate of approximately $160,000.
The court decided that the William had a moral obligation to make greater provision for Larry than he did, and increased the bequest to $60,000.
In Landy, the following factors were important to the determination that the parent had a moral obligation to leave a larger share of his estate to his adult son:
A parent may have a moral obligation to leave an inheritance to an adult child. Whether an adult child has a moral claim to a share of a parent’s estate will depend on factors such as the quality of the relationship between the parent and child, expectations of the child based on assurances from the parent, the size of the estate, and any assistance by the child in building the estate.
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