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Daughter left out of mothers Will loses legal fight against charities

A recent court case has ended the long-running court battle between Heather Ilott and a group of charities disputing the Will of her mother who died some thirteen years ago.

Background

Heather Ilott had been estranged from her mother, Mrs Jackson, for 26 years, having left home at 17. Heather was married with five children and financially independent from her mother, but dependent on State Benefits.

Mrs Jackson died in 2004 having made her last Will in 2002, which left the majority of her estate to a number of charities. The Will left no money (‘financial provision’) for daughter Heather. Mrs Jackson left a ‘Statement of Reason’ with her Will to explain to her Executors that ‘she felt no moral or financial obligation towards her [daughter]’.

Heather Ilott disputed her late mother’s estate (which was valued at approximately £486,000) under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, claiming ‘reasonable financial provision for her maintenance’.

She was successful with her claim and was awarded £50,000 by a District Judge but was unhappy with this award.

Both parties appealed, with Mrs Ilott claiming it was not enough, while the charities said there had been no failure to make reasonable financial provision.

The charities won their appeal but Heather Ilott won the second appeal.  Her initial award was at first confirmed then increased by the Court of Appeal to £143,000 with the option to receive a further £20,000.

The charities appealed this judgement to the Supreme Court.

The result

The charities have now won their appeal on the amount of the award at the Supreme Court.  Heather Ilott has been awarded the original lump sum of £50,000.

  • This judgement encourages the notion of ‘testamentary freedom’ and that you should be able to leave your estate to whoever you choose in your Will.
  • The judgement also says that the law provides no guidance on applications made by an adult child to determine whether they are deserving of an award or not.
  • Finally, it emphasises that Appeal Courts are slow to interfere with the value judgement of the first judge (in the High Court) who hears the full case and sees the parties.

Every appeal made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is fact specific, and future claimants should seek legal advice with solicitors being very careful on advising on this judgement in its entirety.

For more information on this, to discuss making a claim against a will or defending a dispute please contact Mike Spencer on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.

Posted on April 7, 2017

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