Supreme Court To Rule On Landmark Will Dispute

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13 March 2017

Irwin MitchellSpecialist Will Dispute Lawyers Say Court Will Provide Clarity On When Adult Children Can Challenge Their Parent’s Will

The Supreme Court is set to hand down its Judgment in a landmark appeal on Wednesday (15 March 2017) which specialist will dispute lawyers say could change the law for adult children seeking to challenge their parent’s wills if they don’t believe they have been left a reasonable provision.

In July 2015 the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled that Heather Ilott, now in her 50s, could challenge her mother Melita Jackson’s will under the Inheritance Act 1975 after she left her estate worth around half a million pounds to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross animal charities.

The CoA awarded Mrs Ilott £143,000 to buy the rented home she was living in and a further £20,000 in cash as additional income which was an increase from the £50,000 she was given at the High Court.

Mrs Ilott had left home with a boyfriend at the age of 17 and her mother had apparently never forgiven her and excluded her from her will making it clear she did not want her daughter to inherit anything.

However the CoA judges ruled that Mrs Ilott, who has five children, was not given a reasonable provision from the estate for her future maintenance as she was on benefits and had no pension. They also added that Mrs Jackson had ‘no connection’ with the charities during her lifetime.

Specialist will dispute lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say since the Ilott v Mitson hearing in the CoA last summer, the number of enquiries from adult children seeking to challenge their parent’s wills has increased.

The Supreme Court heard a further appeal in December last year and a judgment is set to be handed down on Wednesday in the case now known as Ilott v The Blue Cross and others.

Paula Myers, head of will, trust and estate disputes at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The Court of Appeal ruling clarified that people could still disinherit their children but they would have to provide a good reason for doing so and should be able to explain what connects them to the people or organisations that they have included in their wills instead. 

“The ruling potentially made it easier for adult children who have been left out of wills to challenge them if they have not been left a reasonable provision and we have seen a rise in enquiries from people who feel that they have been unfairly disinherited. 

“However the charities appealed that ruling at the Supreme Court in December and hope to overturn the CoA judgment which could make it more difficult for adult children to challenge their parent’s wills under the Inheritance Act. 

“Whatever the Supreme Court decides, the judgment from this case will provide clarity to the Inheritance Act 1975 and likely set out the guidelines for when challenges can be brought to wills based on inadequate provision and set out the criteria which must be met in order to disinherit your adult children.”

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