Contesting a Will

16th Mar 2017

Three animal charities have won a case at the Supreme Court against a woman cut out of her mother’s will.

Heather Ilott was awarded more than £160,000 by the Court of Appeal after her mother Melita Jackson left most of her £486,000 estate to charities. Mrs Ilott was originally awarded £50,000, which was later tripled.

The charities challenged the ruling and it has been agreed that Mrs Ilott should only receive the original £50,000.

The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals argued that the appeal judges “fell into error” when deciding to increase the maintenance pay out, which included £143,000 for Mrs Ilott to buy her housing association home.

The court has heard that Mrs Ilott, who was an only child, was rejected by her mother at the age of 17 after she left home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend, whom she later married. She and her mother never reconciled their differences, and when 70-year-old Mrs Jackson died in 2004, her will made no provision for her daughter.

Mrs Ilott, who is in her 50s, made her initial appeal under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate. The Act gives the child of a deceased parent the right to apply for an order if a will does not make reasonable provision for them.

Who can make an inheritance claim?

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 certain categories of family and dependants may be able to apply for reasonable financial provision. These are the deceased’s spouse, civil partner, former spouses or civil partners, cohabitees, dependants and children.

When deciding such claims, the court needs to consider whether or not reasonable financial provision was made for that person and if not go on to decide what order to make to remedy that. In making these decisions the court will consider the following factors:

  • The financial needs and resources of the applicant(s) at the date of the hearing and for the foreseeable future
  • The financial needs and resources of the beneficiaries at the date of the hearing and for the foreseeable future
  • Any obligations the deceased had towards any applicant or any beneficiary
  • The size and nature of the estate
  • Any physical or mental disability of an applicant or beneficiary
  • Any other matter including the conduct of an applicant or beneficiary which the court may consider relevant.

Louisa Shailes commented “We have testamentary freedom in this country and can therefore leave our estates on death to whomever we please. However, wills can be challenged and the case of Ilott V Mitson illustrates how the decision making of the court can vary. Although by putting in place a will you should control what happens, it is nevertheless possible for your will (or even the rules of intestacy) to be changed.

If you want to exclude someone from your estate, and in order to try to protect your wishes, it is essential that you take professional advice. At Rogers & Norton we have an experienced team who can help you and provide the advice you need. Alternatively, we can also assist should you find yourself unjustly excluded from an estate or have suspicions about the validity of a will.”

If you have any issues or queries you can our Wills team or on 01603 666001.