In a recent case generating widespread publicity, the Court of Appeal decided to award a daughter who had been left out of her deceased mother’s Will one third of her estate.
Much of the commentary on the case has referred to the fact that on the face of it this decision undermines a party’s ability to make decisions about who should benefit.
In the case of Ilott v Mitson, the claimant successfully pursued a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. The Act allows claims to be made on the basis of an individual falling into a certain category (a member of the immediate family or someone who has been maintained by the deceased before their death).
It has always been the case that the courts are reluctant to intervene and change somebody’s wishes when the claimant is an adult child fully capable of working and effectively making their own way in the world.
However, in this case the claimant was in receipt of state benefits and claimed that her mother’s Will had not made reasonable financial provision for her.
The case has not substantially altered the law in any way other than highlighting how important it is for anyone making a Will and wishing to exclude potential family beneficiaries to be aware that those disinherited could make a claim which could be decided in their favour.
Cases such as these will depend on their particular facts, and whilst a judge will take account of all factors including the size of the estate and the financial status of that claimant, this case does appear to have added a new additional consideration that a judge will have in mind, being the link or attachment a deceased person has to those included in the Will as against those excluded. In the case, the mother had intended to leave her estate to several charities with whom she had not had previous involvement.
This case highlights the importance of ensuring that when you make a Will you take proper legal advice as to the implications of what you are proposing, particularly where there may be certain family members that are not going to be included.
For further assistance in making Wills and related matters please contact Chris Beames on email@example.com. We have wide experience in advice on making a Will, particularly for clients in Wales from our Cardiff and Bridgend offices. Our Dispute Resolution team also advises clients on Will disputes and challenging a Will.