Last month the Supreme Court clarified certain aspects of the Inheritance Act 1975 when it overturned a Court of Appeal ruling which had supported the reasonable financial provision claim of a woman who had been written out of her mother's will, with the assets instead bequeathed to three animal charities: the RSPCA, the RSPB and the Blue Cross.
In offering her ruling, Lady Hale restored an earlier decision made by District Judge Clive Million, which stated that the woman's claim for financial provision had exceeded the threshold of what could be called reasonable. This came despite the claimant living in rented accommodation, on benefits and without a pension.
The case, Ilott v The Blue Cross and Ors, sought to address the question of whether the claimant, Heather Ilott, was entitled some of the £500,000 that was left to the three charities.
Despite earlier being awarded £50,000, Ilott appealed the ruling, arguing that she was entitled to more. Initially she succeeded in securing £143,000 to buy a modest property. She also secured an additional £20,000.
However, Ilot will now have to make do with only the original £50,000 award.
In delivering her judgement, Lady Hale said that the present law is "unsatisfactory". She said it failed to offer sufficient "guidance as to the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether an adult child is deserving or undeserving of reasonable maintenance.
"I regret that the Law Commission did not reconsider the fundamental principles underlying such claims when last they dealt with this topic in 2011," she added.
The ruling has been met with a mixed reaction. Some commentators clearly empathise with the deceased's daughter, while others, including some leading family lawyers, remarked that the decision was a "victory for testamentary freedom".
Charities are likely to agree with the latter sentiment. This is because many rely on legacies in Wills for their charitable operations; however, these legacies are frequently threatened by Inheritance Act claims, particularly if, like in the case discussed, there was no previous connection between the charity and the testator.
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