The past week saw the conclusion of the long running legal case, originally known as Ilott v Mitson.
In this case, a Mrs Jackson left her estate to charities in her will.
She had a daughter, Mrs Ilott, who she didn’t want to inherit anything from the will.
The daughter had left home at 17 with her boyfriend and her mum didn’t approve. They hadn’t spoken for 26 years at the time of Mrs Jackson’s death.
It is a long-held principle that we have the freedom to leave our assets to whomever we choose, but since 1938 courts do have some power to amend a will.
This was clarified in the Inheritance Act 1975 and is particularly the case if the will doesn’t make reasonable financial provision for certain close relatives or dependants.
A court can’t overturn a will on the grounds of it being unfair, but in this case, Mrs Ilott claimed that she was dependant on receiving an inheritance and as her daughter, she was therefore entitled to some of the estate.
The original case resulted in a payment of £50,000 to Mrs Ilott out of a total estate of £480,000. She subsequently appealed for more money.
Mrs Ilott was successful and the appeal court increased the payment to £143,000 to buy a house and a further £20,000.
The charities who were originally expecting this money were understandably not happy with the appeal court and appealed to the Supreme Court.
In summarising the judgment on March 15, Lord Hughes said that the will should have made reasonable financial provision for Mrs Ilott, but it was deemed that the original decision to award £50,000 was correct and it provided reasonable financial provision for day-to-day needs.
By winning the appeal, the Blue Cross, the RSPB and the RSPCA will now benefit from the extra £113,000.
All of this means that you need to be very careful when making a will, and you should ensure that your financial planner has a good knowledge of the legal issues when advising on trusts and estate planning, especially if there are individuals who you do not wish to benefit from your inheritance.
David Hill is a Chartered Financial Planner and Trust & Estate Practitioner at Hills Financial Planning, 15 Agnew Street, Larne. He can be contacted on 028 28276814, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.hillsfinancialplanning.co.uk