A landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal could make it easier for adult children to challenge wills if they don’t believe their parents have left them a reasonable provision leading to a rise in the number of wills being disputed.
Heather Ilott’s mother Melita Jackson left her estate worth almost £500k to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross animal charities after her death in 2004. But Mrs Ilott challenged the will under the Inheritance Act (1975).
Mrs Ilott, now 54, 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 appeal judges have now 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.
Mrs Ilott was awarded £143,000 to buy the rented home she lives in from a housing association and a further £20,000 in cash as “additional income”. An increase from the £50k a previous judge in the High Court had said she should receive.
Paula Myers, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell specialising in will disputes, said: “This ruling means people can still disinherit their children but they will have to have a good reason why and be able to explain what connects them to the people or organisations that they have included in their wills instead.
“This means that adult children who have been left out of wills may find it easier to challenge them if they have not been left a reasonable provision. It provides further clarity to the Inheritance Act 1975.”
“The increase in the amount the court has awarded to Mrs Ilott sends out a message about how important the judges feel about this issue. It’s also interesting that they have found a way to award her a significant sum without affecting her benefits.”