As we all know, it is extremely important to make a Will to ensure that your estate is dealt with as you wish and to provide certainty as to who will inherit your estate. The recent decision in Ilott v Mitson has now caused some uncertainty in this area.
In this case, the mother, Melita Jackson, wanted the majority of her estate (worth approximately £500,000) to go to three animal charities as stipulated in her Will. Problems arose when her estranged daughter, Heather Ilott, who had not had contact with her mother for 26 years after leaving home at the age of 17, made an application for reasonable financial provision after her mother passed away.
An application for reasonable financial provision is made through the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. There are certain rules to be eligible to apply but in short, the intention of the Act is to be able to make further financial provision for those who:
- have not inherited as a result of intestacy (where there is no Will);
- have been left out of a Will entirely; or,
- have not been left as much as they need.
As with Ms Ilott, in a case where reasonable financial provision has not been made, the Inheritance Act enables the court to vary the distribution of the deceased’s estate for certain family members and dependants. The courts must consider the applicant’s financial needs as is necessary for their maintenance in the given circumstances.
Despite being deliberately excluded from her Will, and after appealing several times, Ms Ilott was successful in making this claim and received approximately a third of her mother’s estate.
In reaching its decision on 27 July 2015, the Court of Appeal considered various factors including the size of the estate, Mrs Jackson’s obligations and responsibilities towards her daughter, and the competing needs of Ms Ilott and the charities. The judges favoured the importance of family needs over the charities’. In particular the courts gave consideration to the fact that Ms Ilott was a state benefit claimant with 5 children, no pension provision and her need to buy her rented housing association property.
Although the ruling in this case was very fact specific, the quite controversial decision of the Court of Appeal highlights the potential issues arising out of making a Will and the claims a person may bring if you chose to exclude your children or other dependants from your Will.
If you have specific reasons for excluding a family member from your Will or would like to bring an inheritance act claim then please contact us to discuss how we may be able to assist. Alternatively, if you want to read about how to challenge a Will then please click here.
All information is correct on the date of posting.