In 2007 estranged daughter, Heather Ilott challenged her mother Melita Jackson’s will after discovering she had left it entirely to charities. The district court awarded the daughter a "reasonable provision” of £50,000 from the estate. In July 2015, the Court of Appeal granted Ilott an award of over £143,000 of her mother’s estate. The charities then challenged the decision and took the case to the Supreme Court who heard the case on December 12. This morning the Supreme Court decided to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision, and granted the daughter the £50,000 decided from the original case.
Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Old Mutual Wealth comments:
“This case was the first of its kind to be brought to the highest level of the UK’s justice system. The decision by the court leaves things slightly confused. The purpose of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 was to make reasonable financial provisions. While reducing the amount, still granting Heather Ilott part of her mother’s estate keeps the door open for other cases of a similar kind to progress.
“To avoid the scenario altogether people should consider lifetime planning using trusts, which have both tax benefits and offer the opportunity to gain greater control over the distribution of wealth on death. A scenario such as the Ilott case is also unlikely to occur as the 1975 Act does not apply to lifetime planning. Plus, distribution of trust assets against the terms of a trust would be a breach and could be legally challenged. A bonus is trusts are confidential, so unlike wills they do not currently become public knowledge.
“The distribution of wealth upon death has become more complicated in recent years. It is important to carefully plan for how you wish your money to be divided upon your death and seeking financial advice is the best place to start.”