grand parents
Millions of Brits were ready to dispute a will in court if they were not satisfied with the terms. Andrea Piacquadio/

Sophia, a 67-year-old retired civil servant, loves welcoming her ten grandchildren on Sundays during summer for barbecues in Cornwall, England.

However, only half of them are her biological grandchildren. The others are of her partner David's. "I love them to bits and treat them like my biological grandchildren. I shower them with love and affection, spending the same on their Christmas and birthday presents," she said.

Despite equal love for all, Nona, as her grandchildren call her, doesn't plan on parting her £600,000 estate with the step-grandchildren when she passes to honour her late husband's dying wish. He passed away suddenly in 2010, and nearly a decade ago, Sophia met David, 65, and decided to move into his home soon after.

"Fortunately, none of the grandchildren has ever asked me about what I intend to leave them," Sophia noted. "And if they do, then I will jolly well tell a big fat fib because when they do find out, I won't be here."

No one except David knows about Sophia's plans, and she intends to keep it that way. David worked in construction and is worth £500,000. But what's his take on Sophia's decision? He knew right from the start that Sophia was a widow and had promised her entire estate to her biological grandchildren, which he always respected.

Sophia didn't even include her children in the will because she had supported them every step of the way when they were growing up—be it paying for family meets or deposits for homes. "They are all on the property ladder, whereas my grandchildren are not. That will be my gift to them," she added.

Sophia knows that David will look after her step-grandchildren but is clear about not parting anything with them, even if David has nothing to leave behind.

While it is natural for her to feel guilty at times about leaving the step-grandchildren out of her will, she felt "honour-bound to respect" her late husband's wish to ensure the biological children get all the financial help they can in this harsh world.

Conflicts in Blended Families On The Rise

A will that doesn't go well with all the family members can create conflict and generational rifts. According to IBB Law research in 2022, 75% of people could face a will or inheritance dispute in their lifetime. Furthermore, court cases over wills also jumped significantly in the new decade as people focused more on getting their estates and finances in order.

Even before the pandemic, more than 12.6 million Brits were ready to dispute a will in court if they disagreed with the terms. Is Sophia making the right choice? She had her reasons.

"I hardly see the older step-ones, so I have pretty neutral feelings towards them. They are making their own way in the world—and good luck to them," she said. "The teenagers and younger ones I do see and have known since they were little, and at times, my decision does tug at my heartstrings. But they won't see a penny from me."

According to chartered clinical psychologist Dr Marianne Trent, the "surprising" will of the woman who fulfils the "matriarchal role" in the family often causes the most significant problems. She believes blended families can feel entitled even if the money doesn't come from biological relatives. So, when a family member is left out, it is common to see them question their place in the family and their worth. "That's when paranoia and suspicion set in," she said.

Moreover, the rising inheritance conflicts within blended families in the UK can be attributed to testamentary freedom that allows one to leave their estate to anyone they wish in their will with no legal obligation.

To make things worse, the Rules of Intestacy do not cover non-blood relations, including step-children. However, an individual who has been disinherited and disagrees with the terms of a will can make a claim under the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The Impact Of Being Left Out Can Be Devastating

Clara, 52, from the Midlands, didn't find her name in her step-grandmother's will despite being the only grandchild there for her in the last year of her life. Clara's biological grandmother died when she was a kid. Her dad remarried when she was 14, and she developed a deep relationship with her step-grandmother.

"When I was a teenager, whenever my father and step-mum were away, she would check in on me while I was looking after their house," she said. "'When she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, I was the stable grandchild during the last year of her life. She couldn't drive or do basic things at home, such as care for herself, clean or cook."

Despite having a busy career in marketing, Clara always wished her step-grandmother on birthdays and Christmas. However, she was left out of the will, and her step-grandmother's other ten grandchildren received a handsome four-figure sum. Clara said they didn't help care for their grandmother in her final year.

Although hurt, she wished she knew about her step-grandmother's wishes beforehand, which wouldn't have changed her feelings towards her. Her ultimate lesson from this episode was that "blood is thicker than water."

Dr Trent said it is better to be transparent about wills when alive so that all loose ends are tied up. While it can be difficult, an individual can consult a mediator or therapist to find the right approach to having these conversations. The benefit is that you will likely reduce any potential impact of a fallout within the family.

Names were changed to protect their identities.