Yesterday’s successful claim in the Court of Appeal case raises more questions than it answers.
Mrs Ilott made a successful claim in 2007 against her mother, Mrs Jackson’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. Her mother’s estate was valued at £486,000. Mrs Ilott was Mrs Jackson’s only child. They had been estranged since Mrs Ilott was 17 years old and Mrs Jackson had left her entire estate to charity. In 2007 Mrs Ilott was awarded £50,000 but she appealed to have the sum awarded increased. Yesterday that appeal was granted by the Court of Appeal. Mrs Illot will be awarded a greater proportion of the estate.
What does this change with regard to inheritance and a testator’s freedom to leave their estate as they wish? Well, very little, as the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act has been in force for many years. The category of claimant who can make a claim under the act include the spouse, former spouse, child, cohabitee or dependant of the deceased. They can make a claim against the deceased’s estate if “reasonable financial provision” has not been made for them. The interesting point in this case is the fact that the daughter was an adult and had not been supported by her mother for many years. However, the daughter lived in housing association accommodation and was reliant on benefits. The Court held that the mother should have made provision for her effectively destitute adult daughter and that £50,000 of a £486,000 estate was not sufficient to represent “reasonable financial provision” in this particular case.
However, it is important to remember, that with cases under this particular act each case will turn on its own facts.
When advising on Wills it is best practice to advise the testator to consider who would have a claim on their estate. In some situations it may be wise to leave a potential claimant a gift in the Will as in the end the cost of the claim will deplete the residue of the estate meaning both the claimant and the residuary beneficiaries, the charities in this case, will receive a much reduced inheritance.