The Court of Appeal awarded a daughter around third of her late mother’s estate despite her mother’s will (valued at around £486,000) leaving all of her estate to charity.
The charities appealed and the case of Ilot v Mitson has been heard in the Supreme Court and a decision is expected later this year.
The daughter made a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 which allows the courts discretion to redistribute the deceased’s estate where the will or intestacy rules fail to make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for the applicant. Such claims are available to surviving spouses, former spouses, co-habitees, children (including step children and children of the family), civil partners or anyone being maintained by the deceased.
Generally, anyone making a will can leave whatever they want to whoever they want, but the Inheritance Act gives the courts discretion in certain circumstances. Previously, it was thought that adult children of the deceased who did not have a disability or were not in some way financially dependent on the deceased would be unable to bring a successful claim. However, since Ilott v Mitson there has been an increase in such claims often funded by no win no fee agreements.
What is ‘Reasonable financial provision’?
In the Court of Appeal, the charities argued that the daughter should receive £5000 from the Estate to take driving lessons which would help her to find work as she lived in a rural area with limited job opportunities and was unable to drive.
The daughter argued she should receive all of the estate of nearly £500,000 so she could buy her housing association house, build an extension and receive an income from the remainder.
The Court decided that the daughter should receive £164,000, which was enough for her to purchase her home and have a small amount of savings.
How can you avoid these problems?
In order to avoid these problems, and potentially 10 years of legal proceedings (!), it is essential that you draft your Will properly. Secondly, when you have a will dispute, early engagement in mediation saves time and expense. Thirdly, any person making a Will needs to remember that the law could have a say over who you can leave out of your Will, particularly if proper reasons are not given.
If you believe you might have a potential claim under the Inheritance Act then bear in mind that there are strict time limits so please contact Justin Sadler at Barrett & Co as soon as possible for an assessment of your case.
Justin Sadler gave an interview to Share Radio regarding the Ilot v Mitson case recently, which you can listen to here. For more information please email Justin Sadler at Barrett and Co Solicitors – Reading [email protected] or call 0118 958 9711