In July 2015, Heather Ilot successfully claimed £163,000 from her mother's estate following following a Court of Appeal decision against the four charities that her mother had wanted to inherit.
By way of reminder, Mrs Ilot's mother had specifically excluded her daughter from her Will given that they had been estranged for some 20 plus years. It was clear to all parties that Mrs Jackson did not want her daughter to inherit anything and this was made perfectly clear when Mrs Jackson went to see her solicitors. Mrs Jackson's estate was divided between four charities but her daughter challenged her Will on the basis that she should have been left reasonable financial provision for her maintenance under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. After a lengthy Court battle, Heather Ilot succeeded in her claim at the Court of Appeal, who increased the previous award from £50,000 to £163,000.
What's happening now?
The Supreme Court has recently confirmed that the four charitable beneficiaries can appeal the Court of Appeal decision. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the award given to Heather Ilot was too big.
The grounds of appeal are whether the Court of Appeal:
- was wrong to increase the award granted by the High Court;
- made a mistake in its approach to the 'maintenance standard' of award that Heather Ilot should have got when challenging her mother's Will; and finally
- was wrong to give an award to Heather Ilot in a way which allowed her to keep her state benefits whilst still receiving a substantial award from her mother's estate.
Where does this leave the law?
It seems clear that the charities are not asking the Supreme Court to decide whether or not Heather Ilot should have got any money at all, but looking at the size of the award. The law is clear that challenges to Wills brought by (adult) children against a parent's estate can still be brought. However, the law is uncertain as far as to the correct approach in making an award in these cases.
For the time being, it will be a case for lawyers, beneficiaries and those writing their Wills to wait and see what the Supreme Court decides. It is important to note that there is no timeframe as to when the appeal will be heard, so legal advice should still be sought promptly, whether writing a Will or considering whether to bring, or how to defend a challenge.