The Rise of Inheritance Act Claims

Catherine Green, Partner and Civil and Commercial Disputes Solicitor at WSP Solicitors
There has been an increase in recent years of claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
The recent well reported case of Ilott v Mitson is a good illustration of the type of claim that can be made under the 1975 Act. Here, a long estranged daughter made a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against her deceased mother’s estate because she had been disinherited and even though she was not financially reliant upon her mother.

 

The estate, which had total assets of just under £500,000, was left by the mother Mrs Jackson to three animal charities (the RSPCA, the RSPB and the Blue Cross). During her lifetime the mother had had no real interest in these charities. The mother made a will and also made a point of leaving a letter explaining why she disinherited her only child. The reason she explained was because her daughter at age 17 had left home to be with a man (who she later married) whom the mother had disapproved, causing the estrangement.

 

The case was heard by a Judge at first instance who made an award to the daughter, this decision and award was subsequently appealed and the matter came before the Court of Appeal which resulted in an increased award to the daughter. The Court of Appeal in its judgment stated that they found the mother’s conduct unreasonable, capricious and harsh. The Court of Appeal awarded the daughter, who lived frugally and had long relied upon benefits, a third of the mothers’ estate. In a later development the charities have been given permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

 

There is still some degree of uncertainty with the case to be heard before the Supreme Court, the court’s decision will undoubtedly affect future claims under the 1975 Act. A decision for the claimant is likely to provide further supporting case precedence for those seeking reasonable financial provision when they have either been excluded from a will or if they received less than reasonable financial provision under the intestacy rules.

 

If you are involved in a dispute over a will or have suspicions over how a will was prepared it is important to contact a contentious probate expert. To discuss your personal circumstances please contact us or call 01453 847200.

 

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