Challenges to Wills-Supreme Court decison in the case of -Ilott v Mitson

 We have previously mentioned the case of Ilott – v – Mitson.

For those who are not familiar with the facts this was a case when an adult daughter who was fully competent and independent was awarded £163,000 out of her late mother’s estate.  The estate was worth £486,000 and the mother had left it to three charities with which she had no particular connection.  The daughter’s claim succeeded under the Inheritance Act 1975.  Previously, it had been assumed that only children who were dependent (because they were minors or suffered from some physical or mental disability) could successfully make a claim.

Yesterday the Supreme Court reduced the award back to £50,000 which was the amount awarded by the original Judge. That was bad news for the daughter but it did not close the door on future claims by disappointed adult children. The Supreme Court Judges did not say that there was no legal basis for her claim they just reduced the amount awarded by the Court of Appeal.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the case is that the Supreme Court judgement was handed down a full 10 years after the Judge made his original decision.  One wonders if there will be any money left to distribute by the time the costs have been paid.

The Judges gave some detailed guidance as to how the Inheritance Act should be interpreted. This will be of interest to lawyers but the key point for non professionals is that if you make no provision or significantly reduced provision for an adult child there is always a risk that he or she may bring a claim.

It still seems unlikely that this case will open the floodgates for large numbers of claims but the publicity is bound to make it more likely that aggrieved individuals will seek legal advice with a view to making such a claim.

This situation is relatively unusual but if a Client is concerned the key thing is to have your Will professionally drawn. A Solicitor can advise you about the extent of your legal obligations and if you do decide to make reduced provision for a child he/she can draft a detailed letter of explanation which can be kept with your Will and may help your executors to resist such a claim.

The cost of instructing a Solicitor to prepare a Will  is very reasonable and anyone who tries to save a few pounds by buying a kit from the shop or making a Will over the internet is taking a risk.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this newsletter please contact any of our Offices.

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