Supreme Court reduces daughter’s financial award from late mother’s estate

Sarah Nash, Solicitor and Head of Astle Paterson’s Private Client team, discusses the recent Supreme Court decision in Illott v Mitson – a long running case regarding a claim made by Heather Illot against her deceased mother’s estate.

Sarah explained “This week, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ilott v Mitson with the result that Heather Ilott’s financial award from her mother’s estate has been reduced to less than half of the previous award made by the Court of Appeal.

The background to this case is that Mrs Ilott’s mother, Melita Jackson, died in 2004 leaving a Will in which no provision was made for Mrs Ilott owing to their estrangement of 26 years. Mrs Jackson’s Will left her estate worth £486,000 to three charities and she also left a Letter of Wishes in which she explained why she had left nothing to Mrs Ilott and specifically instructed her Executors to fight any claim brought by her daughter.

Mrs Ilott made a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which was opposed by the three charities. A District Judge awarded her £50,000 after consideration of the potential impact that such an award might have on the state benefits which Mrs Ilott was receiving. Mrs Ilott appealed this as being too low and in 2015 took her case to the Court of Appeal which awarded her £143,000 to buy a property and a cash sum of £20,000, structured to preserve her state benefits and provide an income.

The three charities appealed on the basis that the award should be reduced to £50,000 and the Supreme Court agreed that the original award of £50,000 should be reinstated.

It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court considered that the District Judge had been entitled to take into account the relationship between the mother and daughter. The Act requires the Court to consider a number of factors when considering the merits of a claim. Some of the judges conceded that in such cases the nature of the relationship between the parent and the child and their conduct towards each other may affect what the Court considers to be the just order to make.”

Sarah concluded “The final outcome of this case is being heralded as a victory for testamentary freedom – many had become concerned that with the Court of Appeal’s decision the law had taken a wrong turn and that the wishes of the deceased held little worth. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Ilott v Mitson case underlines the importance of recording those wishes in a Will.”

At Astle Paterson we can arrange a Will for you, and we offer a free consultation to review any existing will to ensure that it is fit for purpose.    Simply call our Private Client Team on 01283 743969 or email to book an appointment.

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