This appeal relates to a claim made by an adult child for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Mrs Heather Ilott brought a claim against her late mother’s estate having been excluded from her Will.
The testator, Ms Melita Jackson, gifted the majority of her estate to a number of charities upon her death in 2004, namely the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her mother for 26 years prior to Ms Jackson’s death having left the family home to live with her now husband, at the age of 17. Mrs Ilott now has five children and relies on benefits and her husband’s modest wage to get by. They have lived completely financially independent from Ms Jackson and have made very few attempts to reconcile with Ms Jackson, all of which failed.
On the opposition of Mrs Ilott's claim, formal proceedings began and in 2007 District Judge Million awarded Mrs Ilot £50,000.00 in damages, as he found Ms Jackson’s Will did not make reasonable financial provision for her daughter. Mrs Ilot then appealed this decision and in July 2015 the Court of Appeal increased the damages to £143,000.00 to enable her to purchase her Housing Association Home and an additional £20,000.00 to ensure Mrs Ilot’s benefits entitlement was not affected. The three charities sought to appeal this decision and the matter was transferred to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court heard the charities appeal on 12th December 2016 and the Judgment was delivered on 15th March 2017. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Court of Appeals decision and ruled in favour of the three animal charities, restoring District Judge Million’s original award.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to consider the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and in making its decision, it has reaffirmed a vital principle in law. The ruling confirms that considerable weight must be given to testator’s wishes and family relationships do not necessarily provide disinherited family members with an entitlement to the estate. However, the Judges agreed that the law surrounding Will’s should be clarified to avoid any future claims and so we may see a repeal of the Law in the near future.
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