In a "landmark" case, a daughter was awarded money from her mother’s estate despite not being named in the Will.

The Inheritance Act made headlines in last year when the Court of Appeal ruled that the deceased’s daughter would be awarded £143,000 to buy a house (plus expenses) and an extra £20,000 structured in a way that would allow Mrs Ilott to preserve her state benefits. Mrs Jackson (the deceased) and her daughter, Mrs Ilott, had been estranged for 26 years after Mrs Ilott left home aged 17 to live with, and later marry, a man whom her mother did not approve of. This decision was made even though Mrs Ilott had not expected to receive anything in her mother’s will.

The court found that Mrs Jackson had acted in an unreasonable and harsh way towards her daughter. Apart from a small gift Mrs Jackson had left her entire estate (£486,000) to the three charities in her will, despite the fact that she had no connection with the charities during her life time.

The Court of Appeal case generated a lot of debate at the time and raised some interesting questions including would Mrs Jackson’s wish to disinherit her daughter have been upheld if Mrs Ilott had been in employment and earning enough, rather than on state benefits?

The animal charities Blue Cross, RSPB and RSPCA in the case have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

When someone dies they may not adequately provide for those they leave behind. In such circumstances the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows a person to contest a Will so that it can be changed to provide for reasonable financial provision.

The 1975 Act allows the courts' discretion to redistribute the deceased’s estate where the Will or intestacy rules fail to make 'reasonable financial provision' for the applicant. Such claims are open to surviving spouses, former spouses, cohabitees, children (including step-children and children of the family), civil partners or anyone being maintained by the deceased.

When considering a contested Will the Court will consider the following:

  • The applicant's financial position both now and in the future
  • The likely financial position any other applicant is to have in the future
  • The financial position of any person who is currently due to inherit or is likely to inherit in the future
  • any obligations or responsibilities which the deceased had towards an applicant or towards someone due to inherit from the estate
  • The size and nature of the deceased's estate

There was some concern that this case could be seen to open the floodgates for similar claims and potentially undermine an individual’s freedom to deal with their affairs as they see fit. The Supreme Court decision will be eagerly anticipated.

If you wish to contest a will swift action is required as an application to the Court has to be made within six months (that is issued in court) of the Grant of Representation; normally the Grant of Probate.