Ilott vs Mitson strengthens the case to make a Will

Published: 02/09/2015

The recent case Ilott vs Mitson (2015) rather than negating the need for a Will actually provides a strong argument to make a Will. Head of Wills and Probate, Linda Cummins reviews this case and the reasons why writing a Will is important.

“The case of Ilott vs Mitson is an interesting one. In this case Melita Jackson bequeathed the vast majority of her £500,000 estate to three charities to the exclusion of her daughter Heather Ilott. The two had been estranged for 26 years due to Heather’s relationship with her boyfriend and then husband. When writing her Will Mrs Jackson stipulated that her daughter should not benefit from her death and her executors should fight any claim from Heather.

“Following Mrs Jackson’s death Heather did make a claim, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 for reasonable provision from her mother’s estate. She rejected the court’s original award of £50,000 and the Court of Appeal awarded her £164,000. The ruling was on the basis that otherwise Heather Ilott would face poverty and that Mrs Jackson had no connection with the charities she left her money to.

“Whilst this case would seem to limit the extent to which any individual can control who will receive their property when they die this does not, in my view, make any case for neglecting to write a Will – indeed I think this case strengthens the need to make a Will. Writing a Will means that you won’t die intestate. If you do die without making a Will your estate would be subject to the Intestacy Rules and these would determine who could inherit. In this particular case, had Mrs Jackson not made a Will then her daughter Heather would have inherited her whole estate so, even though her daughter successfully made an I(PFD) Act claim, she still did not inherit as much as she would have done had her mother not written a Will.

“Indeed, instructing a specialist solicitor to write a Will means that they will use their legal expertise to ensure that the bequests included in the Will are valid and take account of all relevant case law. Legal experts assessing the impact of Ilott vs Mitson have suggested that this ruling means people can still disinherit their children but, to minimise the chance of any successful claim they will need to have good reasons for doing this and they need to have a strong connection with those individuals / organisations to whom they have made bequests. In addition, it is recommended in situations like this that the testator leave a Letter of Wishes along with the Will and use that to explain the reasoning behind the bequests in the Will and a plea for all beneficiaries to respect this and not take legal action. Client’s do need to be aware that qualifying dependents do have a right of claim and success or failure depends on the facts and the circumstances of each situation and the ultimate decision of the Court”

Content correct at tile of publication

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