24 March 2017 by

Supreme Court Sides with Animal Charities over Daughter of Deceased

It’s the judgment Charities, writers of Wills and beneficiaries have all been waiting for, the UK Supreme Court has ruled on the case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and others (also referred to as Illot v Mitson).

The case began way back in 2007, with an adult child bringing a claim against her deceased mother’s estate for a financial provision to be made for her under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’).

The deceased mother (Jackson) and her daughter (Ilott) had been estranged for 30 years. The deceased made a Will leaving her entire estate to 3 animal charities and also made a letter of wishes to ensure that her daughter would not receive anything from her estate.

In the first 2007 County Court hearing the daughter’s claim was allowed and the Court awarded her £50,000 from the estate. This decision was appealed. Upon hearing the charities’ appeal, the Appeal Court first ruled in their favour and the daughter received nothing. The Appeal Court then allowed the daughter’s cross appeal and awarded her £143,000 to purchase her council home and a further £20,000.

Now the Court of Appeal’s ruling has been unanimously set aside by the Supreme Court, and the District Judge’s original award of £50,000 has been reinstated.

The decision illustrates that the Courts, when deciding on an inheritance dispute, must place considerable importance on the deceased’s wishes as to whom they wanted to benefit from their estate. It highlights the significance of personal choice and testamentary freedom. That said, the wishes of the deceased may eventually be overridden by the Courts and even where a deceased has provided no financial support and was estranged from their child, an adult child who has been left out of their parent’s Will can still successfully make a claim.

The eagerly awaited judgment therefore is not exactly revolutionary. The law still allows the Courts to grant an adult child an award for a ‘reasonable provision’ from the estate. It is important to remember that each claim under the Inheritance Act will be different; each case is unique and is dealt with on its own individual facts. It is the unique circumstances of each case which will assist in determining the amount of the award given or the settlement agreed.

In which situation can a person bring a claim under the Inheritance Act?

  1. they have not inherited as a result of intestacy (the deceased died without a Will);
  2. they have been left out of a will entirely; or
  3. they have inherited, but not as much as they need.

Who can bring a claim under the Inheritance Act?

  1. the spouse/civil partner of the deceased;
  2. the former spouse/civil partner of the deceased who has not remarried or entered into a further civil partnership;
  3. a person cohabiting with the deceased for at least two years prior to their death;
  4. the deceased’s child;
  5. any person (not being a child of the deceased) who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family; or
  6. anybody who was being “maintained” by the deceased.

If you think you may have a claim, you should ensure you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Time is of the essence as claims must be brought within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate being issued.

We regularly act for clients who wish to make a claim under the Inheritance Act and we always aim to resolve cases quickly. We handle cases in a tough yet emotionally sensitive manner to make sure we secure the best possible outcome for you.

We are always happy to talk on an initial no obligation and informal basis so please feel free to telephone one of the Disputed Wills team.

17 March 2017 by

Extending Consumer Protection

An announcement in last week’s budget proposed that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are to be given additional powers […]

23 March 2017 by

Do not waste court time by repeating previously failed arguments in bankruptcy proceedings

A recent Court of Appeal decision confirms a long established legal principle preventing a party to a legal action from […]

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