No one can have avoided the recent publicity surrounding the case of Ilott -v- Mitson (2015).
This case concerns the estate of the late Mrs Jackson (no relative of mine) who died about 10 years ago leaving a Will and an estranged daughter, Ms H, who was excluded from the Will entirely. The late Mrs Jackson and Ms H had not been in contact with each other for over 26 years prior to Mrs Jackson’s demise.
Following her death, Ms H sought a claim against her late mother’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (please click this link to read our earlier blog on this law) for reasonable financial provision and won an award despite the fact that Mrs Jackson had deliberately excluded her from her Will.
In 2007, she was initially awarded £50,000 from the circa £500,000 estate which Mrs Jackson had in fact bequeathed in its entirety to three animal charities.
The Judge’s view was based on a number of factors including:
“Ms H has limited financial resources and obvious financial needs, in that she is heavily reliant on state benefits to maintain her modest lifestyle and home.”
“The charities accepted that their resources and needs were irrelevant.”
“Mrs Jackson owed her daughter the ordinary family obligations of a mother towards her only child who was an independent adult.”
She however appealed seeking a larger award but then the charities cross-appealed and won leaving her back to square one- with nothing!
In 2011, she made further appeals culminating in the recent Court of Appeal decision released on 27 July 2015 whereby she was awarded a third of the estate.
Whilst there are clearly numerous factors that brought about the final decision, this case really does emphasise that the courts decide on claims brought under the 1975 Act on a fact specific basis. It is clear that the outcome of one claim under the 1975 Act cannot be relied on as precedent or solid guidance as to the outcome of another under the same Act.
What’s more is that the judgment in the 2011 Court of Appeal decision is considered to have widened the case law in terms of extension of the category of persons eligible to include adult children who for many years, it was assumed, were not automatically likely to benefit if they brought a claim under the Act if they were able to work.
What is the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975?
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is a provision in the law that serves to make further financial provision for family members or loved one who have not been provided for at all or not been left as much as they need either under the terms of the deceased’s Will or as a result of intestacy rules.