There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the Ilott v Mitson case in the national press since the Court of Appeal awarded Heather Ilott £164,000 from her late mother’s Will. The case itself has been making its way through the English & Welsh legal system for the best part of a decade.
This case involved a deceased’s mother’s estate worth £486,000. The mother, estranged from her only daughter, appointed three charities, of which she did not have a close connection with, to be the beneficiaries of her estate. She did not make a provision in her Will for her daughter, even though she knew that her daughter was claiming financial assistance from the state.
The daughter made a claim to contest the Will under the Inheritance (Provision and Dependants) Act 1975. This piece of legislation allows for a distinct category of persons (in this case, the daughter) to claim for a “reasonable financial provision” in order to provide maintenance for the claimant.
Initially, the judgement from the Family Division of the High Court ordered that the daughter receive £50,000. However, as she was claiming financial assistance from the state, this would affect her means-income tested state benefits, so she appealed to the Court of Appeal. On the 27th July 2015, the Court of Appeal held that the daughter should receive: £143,000 in order to purchase her own property on the right to buy scheme, costs of acquiring that property and a right to an option to take a further maximum sum of £20,000 to meet her income needs. The Court was unimpressed with how the deceased mother had not made any reasonable provision for the daughter, but was willing to provide an amount for three charities which she did not have any close connection with. It appears that the judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal is to be re-examined, as a further appeal has been made to the highest court in England and Wales, the Supreme Court.
Whilst generally speaking, you can leave your property and money to whomever you wish, this case illustrates how important it is to think very carefully before making a Will and to seek legal advice before doing so. Should you wish to disinherit your child, then you would need to consider charities or organisations that you have a continuing and lengthy relationship with, as the Courts are unlikely to react favourably. At Foskett Marr Gadsby & Head LLP, we can advise how best to state your wishes and the reasons for, and establish evidence which can be used should your Will ever be contested.
For further information please contact our Wills and Probate Team.