On Monday The Court of Appeal ruled on the case of Ilott v Mitson which has led lawyers to warn that the outcome could undermine the rights of an individual to leave their assets to whoever they wish.
Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her Mother for 26 years after she eloped at the age of 17, some 37 years earlier, which had resulted in a family dispute. The deceased had taken steps to have her will professionally drawn up, realising there could be a potential claim on her death, and had even prepared a letter explaining why she had disinherited her Daughter and instructing her executors to fight any claim.
Despite the deceased seemingly having done everything she could to ensure her estate did not pass to her Daughter the Court awarded the sum of £164,000 to Mrs Illot, instead of the whole estate (£489,000.00) being paid to the three charities named in the Will.
Why did the Court reach this decision?
While it has always been possible for certain people to make a claim against your estate by proving the will to be invalid or that they had not been given reasonable financial provision, the latter has always been notoriously difficult for a self sufficient adult. The concern is that this case has widened the gap to make it more accessible for claims to be brought.
However, whilst this is a landmark decision it should be noted that this case is very fact specific and the Court took into account many factors when making their decision.
Although the pair had been estranged for a number of years it was noted that Mrs Ilott had made several attempts to reconcile with her Mother during that time, the Court acknowledged that some fault must lay with Mrs llott but that the deceased had in fact been the dominant cause in the breakdown of the relationship.
The Court held that the deceased had failed to make “reasonable financial provision” for her Daughter and took into account basic human needs given Mrs Ilott’s circumstances. She has 5 children and is dependant on State Benefits, her and her Husband live in a Housing Association house which they had the right to buy but could not afford and in addition the family had never had a holiday and had at times struggled to afford clothing and food.
The amount awarded was enough for her to purchase the property and cover any incidental costs incurred in doing so.
Finally, the Court’s decision was influenced by the fact the deceased had “little association” with the Charities she had named in her Will and the charities in question were not dependant on the funds.
What does this decision mean for you and how can we help?
It is likely that as a result of this decision we will see an increase in the number of claims being made against estate and if these are successful it will be a cause for concerns for those who wish to disinherit members of their family from their Will.
It is more important than ever to ensure your Will has been drawn up professionally to make it as water tight as possible. It is not sufficient to just give the reasons why someone is not inherit; you must now go the extra step and give detailed reasons why you have left the estate to those named in the Will.
Our team of private client solicitors can discuss your circumstances and wishes and how best to achieve these. We will then accurately record your wishes in detail so that should a claim arise all aspects have been covered. We keep our Will files and these can be called upon as evidence.
If you do not have a Will, or have made a Will in the past and want to make sure everything is in order, then please contact one of the team to arrange a free initial consultation.
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