Illot v Mitson - The case continues...

The case of Illot v Mitson [2015] EWCA Civ 797 shows just how willing courts are to overturn a testator’s wishes in their Wills.

Heather Illot’s mother chose not to include her in her Will because she had eloped at 17 to marry her boyfriend. Instead of choosing to include Heather in the will, Melita Jackson chose to leave her entire estate to animal charities instead.

On her mother’s death in 2004 Illot challenged the Will under the Inheritance (Provision For Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that reasonable provision for her had not been made in the Will.  She was initially awarded £50,000 but challenged this.  This challenge was initially rejected but was then successful in the Court of Appeal where she was awarded £164,000.

Many commentators suggested that this case set a worrying precedent, however there were several important factors which the judges appeared to have taken into account when making their decision.

Firstly the deceased’s estate comprised of assets she received from her late husband, Mrs Illot’s father who died before Mrs Illot was even born.  This is important in that had he lived he may well have wanted to provide for his daughter and his main asset, the family home, appears to have been paid for by him solely.

Additionally Mrs Illot’s mother appeared to have no connection to the charities which she intended to benefit.  This would suggest that had she had a connection to the charities the judges may not have reached the same decision.

On top of this Mrs Illot’s mother rejected attempts at reconciliation made by her daughter during her lifetime.

In March, the charities who were to benefit from Mrs Illot’s mothers will, including Blue Cross, the RSPCA and the RSPB, obtained leave to go to the Supreme Court over the appealed decision.

The Supreme Court will seek to consider whether the EWCA’s approach to maintenance was wrong. It will also decide whether the appeal court was wrong to structure its award such that Mrs Illot would keep her entitlement to state benefits.

We will keep you updated as this case progresses as it highlights the importance of seeking legal advice when making a Will and providing clear instructions as to who should benefit from your Will and, most importantly, why.

For further information about making a Will, please contact Patrice Lawrence on 01992 558411 or by email: patrice.lawrence@breezeandwyles.co.uk

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

 

 

Sources:

Family Law - http://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/inheritance-dispute-goes-to-the-supreme-court-ilott-v-mitson#.VznLzMPmodV

Law Gazette - http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/animal-charities-take-will-contest-to-supreme-court/5053950.article

STEP news story (30 July 2015): Ilott’s 1975 Act award tripled on further appeal - http://www.step.org/news/ilott-s-1975-act-award-tripled-further-appeal

Wedlake Bell (PDF file) BAILII (EWCA decision) - http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/797.html