For the first time since the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 was introduced, an appeal under the Act has reached the Supreme Courts.
Mrs Ilott, daughter of Mrs Jackson, left home in 1978 at the age of 17 to live with her boyfriend, without the permission of her family. As a result of this, the family grew apart and Mrs Jackson left nothing to her estranged daughter in her Will.
At the time of Mrs Jacksons’ death, all attempts of reconciliation had failed and the estate that Mrs Ilott believed she was entitled to, nearly £500,000, had been left to charities such as The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Blue Cross and others.
Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which “confers the right on a child of a deceased parent to apply for an order if a Will does not make reasonable provision for their maintenance.” Arguing that her mother had made no provisions for her only child, Mrs Ilott took the case to court and a District Judge initially awarded her £50,000, which was then increased to over £160,000 to include £143,000 to buy her Housing Association home by the Court of Appeal.
What made this ruling unusual is that the Law is normally used to benefit minor children or dependant relatives; when Mrs Ilott made the claim she was an adult and financially independent from her mother and had been for many years.
Today, the panel of seven Supreme Court Judges ruled in favour of the charities, who appealed the Court of Appeal decision, and the District Judge’s initial award of £50,000 has been restored. This ruling has clearly shown that, if they are disinherited, adult children are not as likely to be able to claim against a parent’s estate successfully.
The charities are, understandably, delighted with the news and a spokesperson has said “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has given welcome reassurance that…the wishes recorded in a person’s Will must be respected…This judgement will allow us to continue to honour the wishes of individuals who choose to remember charities in their Will.”