The case of Ilott v Mitson has finally come before the Supreme Court after 12 years.
Melita Jackson who died in 2004 made a Will in which no provision was made for her estranged daughter, Heather Ilott, instead leaving her Estate of £486,000 to 3 animal charities. Mrs Ilott brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”) against the Estate on the grounds that her mother’s Estate did not make reasonable financial provision to her as an adult child.
Mrs Jackson had fallen out with her daughter many years prior to her death and specifically instructed her Executors to fully contest any claim her daughter might make against her Estate following her death.
In 2007, a Court awarded Mrs Ilott £50,000 from the Estate.
Mrs Ilott appealed that decision and in 2015 was awarded almost ⅓ of the Estate – £163,000 by the Court of Appeal. This included £143,000 to enable her to buy her housing association home and a further £20,000 capital, such that her state benefits would not be affected. The Judges in the Court of Appeal agreed that Mrs Jackson’s decision to exclude her daughter was “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”, as Mrs Ilott was then left in some financial difficulty.
The animal charities to whom the Estate was given have appealed to the Supreme Court.
The 1975 Act allows a child of a deceased parent (even if that child is then aged over 18) to apply to Court if the Will or Intestacy provisions do not make reasonable provision for their maintenance.
The Supreme Court will have to balance the arguments on both sides. On the one hand, beneficiaries (the animal charities in this case) wish the Court to affirm the importance of testamentary freedom and to secure crucial guidance for the future as to how the Court will exercise its powers to alter a persons wishes using the 1975 Act. On the other hand, those children entitled to bring a claim for reasonable financial provision are looking to the Court to commit to the wide ranging powers under the 1975 Act to make financial provision orders.
The Court will also decide if it was wrong for the lower Courts to structure the award under the 1975 Act, so as to preserve Mrs Ilott’s entitlement to state benefits.
A decision is expected in the near future.
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