News & Views

Can your Will be ignored? Landmark ruling explained

Private client solicitor Raveet Phull explains the implications of a potential landmark ruling in the Court of Appeal that has seen a daughter (Heather Illot) rejected by her mother (Melita Jackson) win an inheritance dispute case.

The Court of Appeal, in Ilott v Mitson & Ors [2015], has overturned the Will of the deceased in favour of her disinherited, estranged daughter. The daughter, the appellant in the case, claimed she had not been left “reasonable provision” in the deceased’s Will which benefited three charities. This was in spite of the fact that the mother had expressly stated that she did not want her daughter to inherit.

Could your will be ignored

A recent Appeals Court ruling saw a disinherited daughter successfully challenge her mother’s Will

What does this ruling change potentially?

The ruling potentially makes it easier for adult children to challenge a Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Previous case law has suggested that an adult child should show that there was some degree of dependence on the deceased in order to successfully challenge a Will under the 1975 Act. This ruling indicates that there does not have to be dependence on the deceased, merely hardship suffered as a result of a lack of a reasonable provision.

Which factors appear to be at the root of the judge’s decision?

The source of the deceased’s wealth, her attitude towards her daughter and the daughter’s poverty-stricken situation all seem to have driven this judgment. The deceased asset’s consisted largely of an insurance pay out and wages from the appellant’s father’s estate and, as Brie Stevens-Hoare QC stated, that the appellant had an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh mother”. The appellant herself was described as living on the breadline and not being able to afford clothes for her children.

Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Ryder and Sir Colin Rimer ultimately awarded £164,000 (the majority of which would be used to buy a house) from the £500,000 estate to the appellant and thought that was the appropriate amount in light of her circumstances and basic human needs.

What can you do to try to ensure your Will is not ignored?

Perhaps the severity of the facts are what makes this case an extreme interpretation of the 1975 Act and not the general rule. However, to avoid this kind of claim, a prudent testator will leave a detailed note listing reasons when they are thinking of disinheriting a family member or benefitting a charity they have no connection with.

Need help with your will?

If so, please contact private client and Wills solicitor Raveet Phull in St Albans (01727 832830).

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