There has recently been something of a media frenzy surrounding the recent Ilott v Mitson (2015) case with reports suggesting that the Court of Appeal decision was a ‘landmark ruling’. However, the Inheritance Act 1975 has been around for 40 years giving adult children the right to make a claim against their parents estate if they can show that they have received inadequate provision.
In this particular case the testator, Melita Jackson had left her £500,000 estate to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross animal charities after her death in 2004. Her daughter, Mrs Illott, had been estranged from her mother for 25 years after she had eloped to marry her boyfriend at 17 years old. Mrs Illott was aware that her mother had excluded her from her will hence the commencement of 8 years of legal action.
The Court of Appeal took into account a number of facts before coming to the conclusion that Mrs Jackson had not made reasonable provision for her daughter. Mrs Illott, an only child, was in receipt of state benefits and had no pension. Additionally, Mrs Jackson had no connection during her lifetime with the charities she had chosen to benefit.
It’s worth bearing in mind that individual cases, though with common threads running through them, are unique in the way that the court will view various factors before coming to a decision. What is clear though is that as an adviser, there are clear steps you can guide your clients on in order to make best efforts to ensure their wishes are carried out as they would like;
- People can still disinherit their children under English law but there should be good reasons for doing so and they should be clearly documented in detail with objective rational reasons which will hold more weight that emotional ones
- Where clients wish to benefit organisations, an established record of supporting such organisation i.e. a charitable one would also be beneficial
- Ensure your client appreciates that aspects such as rising property values, pensions, life assurance etc can mean that estates are worth more than the client initially anticipates. Equally, financial circumstances can change during the clients lifetime therefore Wills and any accompanying Letter of Wishes should be regularly reviewed.
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