Rogers & Norton News

Court of Appeal Reviews Beneficiaries’ Rights

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

In the recently well publicised case of Ilott v Mitson,  Mrs Ilott successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal and received £163,000 from her mother’s estate despite not being named as a beneficiary under the Will.  The circumstances of this case are further surprising as Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her mother for the majority of her adult life despite three attempts at reconciliation.

Family Circumstances

Louisa Shailes of our Private Client team explains; “ Mrs Ilott was brought up solely by her mother following the death of her father before her birth.  At 17 Mrs Ilott left home to live with Mr Ilott without her mother’s approval.  She later married and had 5 children with Mr Ilott but her relationship with her mother never improved.  Mrs Ilott lives in a housing association property and her family is supported by various benefits.

Mrs Ilott’s mother passed away leaving a Will, supported by two side letters explaining her reasoning, leaving nothing to her daughter or wider family but leaving her estate valued at £486,000 equally between three charities.

Judgment from Court of Appeal

Peter Hastings of our litigation team comments “The claim was brought by Mrs Ilott under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 which allows, amongst other categories, children of the deceased to bring a claim upon the estate for reasonable provision.

It was found that Mrs Ilott should not be penalised for a lack of expectation of receiving anything from her mother’s estate as the charities had no expectation either as the deceased had no previous connection with the charities in her lifetime. It was also found that the estrangement between the parties should not deprive the appellant of an award.

The testamentary wishes of the deceased has been limited by Parliament as they have “entrusted the courts with the power to ensure, in the case of even an adult child, that reasonable financial provision is made”. The court felt that the limitation on the award for an adult child being limited to provision by way of maintenance was enough to balance the testamentary wishes of the deceased with the needs of the appellant.

The appellant’s income, earning capacity and lack of pension contributed to the court’s reasoning that despite Mrs Ilott being an independent adult child she survived on such a basic level of resources that she was awarded £143,000 to purchase her local authority house. She was also given the option to receive a further award of £20,000 from the estate to provide extra income without affecting the benefits she receives”.

Conclusion

Louisa Shailes adds “Despite the somewhat surprising outcome of the case, it is important to remember that the award made was specific on the facts of this case.  It is clear from the judgment that the court considered all factors set out in Section 3 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 in making their award and therefore there is no new law in the case.  It does, however, appear to show that the court will consider family members claims despite testamentary wishes and consider their maintenance needs”.

It is always important to consider any potential claims upon your estate despite the general rule that you can leave your estate as you wish.  If you would like to discuss your Will and any of the above issues with one of our private client team, please contact Louisa Shailes (louisa.shailes@rogers-norton.co.uk) and for advice on seeking to challenge a Will, please contact Peter Hastings (peter.hastings@rogers-norton.co.uk).