The controversial case of Ilott vs Mitson will be revisited once again by the Supreme Court on 12th December 2016.
The case concerned a mother, Melita Jackson, who chose to leave the bulk of her estate to three charities – and her estranged daughter Heather Ilott who appealed this decision. The daughter was completely excluded from her mother’s will and her mother went so far as to write a letter of wishes, stating explicitly that her daughter should not inherit.
When the case was originally heard in 2007 by DJ Million, he ruled that it was unreasonable for Mrs Jackson’s Will to make no provision for her daughter. The daughter was awarded £50,000 out of the £486,000 estate. However, the daughter was not satisfied as this was not sufficient to purchase her home and would affect her right to means tested benefits.
The case was heard again by Eleanor King J in 2009 on the first appeal. The Judge overturned the previous ruling so that the daughter stood to receive nothing.
The case was then heard again in 2011 by the Court of Appeal who reinstated the £50,000 award, but the daughter was not satisfied.
The case was revisited by the Court of Appeal in June 2015 (Ilott v Mitson  EWCA Civ 797). At this stage, the Court awarded the daughter £163,000 comprising of money to purchase her home (£143,000) and a cash sum (£20,000) that would not affect her eligibility for benefits. Heather Ilott had five children and very little money – and she had tried to reunite with her mother, without success. The Court described the mother’s decision as ‘unreasonable, capricious and harsh’.
The Court’s decision in 2015 was based on the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 which allows Wills to be challenged where an individual believes they have been unjustly excluded. Usually, someone would need to be financially dependent on the deceased to make a claim under the Act. However, the Court recognised that Heather Ilott had a very low annual income that overrode the dependency requirement.
Following the decision in 2015, the three charities who originally stood to benefit from the bulk of Mrs Jackson’s estate were given permission to take their course to the UK Supreme Court. It is this hearing that has been scheduled for December 12th.
The case has attracted huge interest from the legal profession.
It is hoped that the Supreme Court hearing will clarify the application and scope of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 further.
Image credit (with permission): UK Supreme Court.
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