Contesting a Parent's Will

03 February 2017

Lucy Butterfint, senior solicitor, takes a look at how a recent appeal at the Supreme Court could change the way you can claim against your parent’s estate.

If you do not think you have been reasonably provided for under the terms of your parent’s Will, then a recent appeal at the Supreme Court, could change the way you can claim against your parent’s estate.

The case of Ilott v Mitson relates to an adult child challenging her mother's Will. Mrs Jackson (the deceased) and her daughter, Mrs Ilott, had been estranged since Mrs Ilott left home aged 17, some 26 years earlier. The case previously made the headlines and brought inheritance claims into the public consciousness.

Apart from a small gift to the BBC Benevolent fund, Mrs Jackson had left, her entire estate, which amounted to £486,000, to three charities.

Mrs Ilott applied under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision. After an initial award of £50,000 was made, on appeal this was increased to enable Mrs Ilott to purchase her housing association house (£143,000) and receive a further £20,000. This was structured in such a way that it would allow Mrs Ilott to retain her state benefits. This latest hearing is the charities appealing this decision.

The number of probate claims continues to increase, however, there are some who believe this case has made it easier for adult children to make a successful claim against their parent's estate, using the 1975 Inheritance Act, if they are excluded from the Will.

If you live in England and Wales, you are free to leave your estate to whoever you choose, however, you must consider your moral obligations.

The courts will look at the circumstances of the deceased and the claimant, including financial circumstances and needs, and those of other beneficiaries who are included in your Will.

When writing a Will, you should consider including a "statement of reasons" in order to set out your decision-making process in a considered way. You should try to focus on the issue of what is reasonable, rather than the details of arguments past.

If you want to exclude someone from your Will, then you should obtain specialist legal advice to limit your exposure to potential claims.

If you would like any further information please do contact me or a member of the team.

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