Ilott v Mitson: can your will be overturned by the courts?
A recent landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal has hit the headlines this week. But despite the sensationalist claims, you’re still free to leave your estate to whoever you wish.
After a decade-long legal battle, the Court of Appeal ruled that Heather Ilott, 54, of Hertfordshire, should receive a third of her mother Melita Jackson's £486,000 estate.
Jackson, who died aged 70 in 2004, never forgave her only daughter for eloping at the age of 17, and deliberately left her out of her will. Instead, she left her wealth to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross animal charities.
The Court of Appeal granted the poverty-stricken Mrs Ilott a third of the estate on the grounds that her mother did not leave “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
What this ruling means for you
This ruling only affects the specific circumstances where an adult child has been “disinherited”.
It doesn’t mean that all adult children in the same circumstances will always succeed. But it does illustrate that, if your will is likely to be unusual in nature and you want to leave out certain family members, you must take legal advice and have the appropriate wording prepared by a solicitor.
The law governing claims by adult children is now in a rather unhelpful state. This ruling has only emphasised that decisions are highly fact-specific and that the outcome of one case can’t be relied on as to what will happen in another.
The Court has to make a value judgment in each case. And as the law now stands, the outcome depends to some extent on the individual Judge’s personal views and values.
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