The Court of Appeal made a landmark ruling yesterday in relation to a claim against a Will made by a daughter of the deceased. The case involved a Will of Malita Jackson who had died in 2004 leaving her estate to be split between The Blue Cross, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These were charities to which Mrs Jackson did not have any particular connection.
Mrs Jackson had not left any of her estate to her daughter Mrs Ilott from whom she was estranged. Mrs Ilott had left home at 17 to marry and the parties were not reconciled during Mrs Jackson’s lifetime.
In the County Court, Mrs Ilott, was awarded £50,000 on the basis that her mother had not made reasonable financial provision for her. However, the Court of Appeal increased this to £164,000 which equates to around a third of the estate which was initially worth £485,000.
The costs of such cases are usually paid from the estate but this ultimately reduces the amount of money available for beneficiaries. In recent high profile cases, claimants and defendants have been criticised for pursuing cases where there was little or no chance of success.
This case will potentially have a significant impact on an individual’s freedom to leave their assets where they want. In this country we have testamentary freedom to leave our assets to any beneficiaries we see fit. However, there is protection for disinherited family members in the form of an act called the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 whereby those who have not been made reasonable provision by a deceased can claim against the estate.
This case is unusual in that it involved an adult child who was not financially dependent on her mother during her mother’s lifetime. Mrs Ilott was living on benefits with a large family and limited financial resources of her own. It remains to be seen whether this case will set a precedent or will be a one off based on the particular facts of the case.
Our advice is to ensure that you have an up to date Will and that any wishes regarding including or excluding beneficiaries are clearly discussed with the solicitor and documented.
Private Client team
0113 227 9388