Latest court decision has implications for inheritance decisions

In a landmark case last week the Court of Appeal awarded an estranged adult daughter a share of her late mother’s estate after a decade long legal battle.

Whilst it does not make any great change to the law in this area it may be considered by some to dilute the general principle that we all have the right to leave our estate to whomever we wish and to extend the circumstances in which financial provision may be awarded particularly in relation to adult children.

The case was brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act) which allows family members and other dependants of a deceased for whom ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made by his/her Will to apply to the court for such provision to be made by the deceased’s estate.

In this case mother, Mrs Jackson. and daughter, Heather Ilott, had a strained relationship after Heather Ilott ran away at 17 to be with her future husband. Mrs Jackson’s Will left the entirety of her £486,000 estate to animal charities (with which she had no evident previous connection) to the exclusion of Heather Ilott.

Heather Ilott applied to the court for financial provision to be made for her by her mother’s estate. The court found that the late Mrs Jackson had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” and had “unreasonably excluded” her daughter from her Will and ordered that financial provision should be made. It was submitted on behalf of Heather Ilott that the late Mrs Jackson’s bequests had been made out of spite.

Applications under the Act are usually reserved for dependants, such as young children and those who had a subsisting relationship with the deceased. As such, this case is of particular interest and importance.

This ruling could make it easier for adult children with little or no relationship with their parents to claim for reasonable financial provision from a deceased parent’s estate.

It’s important to review your own will to mitigate the potential impact of this case and to ensure, as far as possible, that your final wishes are followed and not rewritten.

This decision has also ‘opened up’ prospective claims for individuals who have been excluded from a deceased family members will and legal advice should be sought on this as soon as possible.

If you would like any advice or information relating to wills or a potential claim please contact enquiry@beswicks.com or phone 01782 205000.