In the recent, and heavily publicised case of Ilott v Mitson a woman’s disinherited daughter has received £164,000 from her estate. The case involved the estate of the late Melita Jackson and her daughter Heather.
Heather had left home at 17 and had not been in contact with her mother for some 26 years and had been excluded from her late mother’s will. Ms Jackson had left her entire £486,000 estate to various charities, however, her daughter applied under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 stating that the will failed to make reasonable financial provision for her. Heather was awarded the sum of £164,000, £143,000 being the sum required to buy her home (plus reasonable costs of the purchase, approximately £1,000) and was also awarded £20,000 to meet her income needs.
Many have felt that the ruling has given birth to the erosion of testamentary freedom as we know it in English Law. Regardless of what an individual does in their will, it can be overturned if it does not leave adequate financial provision for their children. This is an important caveat for everybody when making a will.
A reading of the full judgement of the Court of Appeal clearly indicates that in the end, it was a sensible and reasonable judgement bearing in mind that the will disinherited the daughter and left the estate in favour of various animal charities.
The important issue is to bear in mind that each case is decided on its own special circumstances and this is what the Judge handing down the judgement considered very carefully.
However, watch this space as it is likely the judgement will be appealed to the Supreme Court.