Very rarely does the Supreme Court ever decide on will dispute cases, but today the long awaited Judgment of Illott -v- Mitson was handed down.
The background to the case
The facts of the case maybe briefly summarised. Mrs Jackson died in 2004, under the terms of her will she left the majority of her estate, valued at around £500,000 to charities. There was no provision left for the Deceased’s Daughter , Mrs Ilott whom the Court heard had been estranged from the Deceased for over 26 years.
Mrs Illott made a claim against her Mothers estate, and was successful. She was originally awarded £50,000 which was subsequently increased to £163,000 by the Court of Appeal.
Over the course of the last 13 years a long and complicated legal battle has ensued between the charities and the Deceased’s Daughter, with the case finally being decided today in the landmark Judgment.
The important issues in the case
The fact that the case involved charities is very significant. Legacy income arising from gifts in will is of course one of the largest income sources to charities with over £2 Billion a year being donated. The case has attracted considerable publicity over the years, with lots of headlines suggesting that the fundamental right to decide who inherits from an estate when you die had in some way been challenged. The reality is of course that the devil is always in the detail, and whilst the Charities have succeeded in reducing the original award what will be the long term impact of the Judgment ?
Claims against estates can still be made
Understandably, the charities have welcomed the judgment arguably clarity has been provided as to points of law that had been unclear, but the publicity caused by the case may in the long run simply help promote the circumstances as to when a claim can be made. After all the Supreme Court still concluded that the estranged Daughter of the Deceased could succeed with a claim against her Mothers estate under the Inheritance ( Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
To most people they would never have heard of this little known Act, but the Judgment certainly runs the risk of helping to educate those persons disappointed at being cut out of a will, that there are indeed circumstances when the wishes of a deceased person may (to use the Supreme Court’s own words )maybe `overridden` if the Claimant is able to show that the facts of his/her case falls within the parameters of the Inheritance Act 1975.
If you have been left out of a will or are facing a claim against an estate please contact Tim Murden on 01482 429985 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org