Can you Disinherit your Children?
Disinheriting your Children
The question in the recent case of Ilot –v- Mitson, was whether a mother could disinherit her daughter who she had fallen out with almost 30 years earlier.
The case which rumbled on for over ten years has finally been decided. The Court of Appeal awarded the daughter a third of her late mother’s estate, despite the fact that her mother had left instructions expressly stating her daughter was not to receive anything.
What happened in the case of Ilot –v- Mitson?
Melita Jackson’s last wishes were to leave her entire estate to three animal charities and nothing to her only child Heather Ilot as she disapproved of her lifestyle.
Over the years Heather Ilot made a number of attempts at reconciliation with her mother, which were all rejected. When her mother passed away, her estate was valued at £486,000. Heather Ilott then claimed against her mother’s estate.
The judge at first instance awarded Heather £50,000. Both sides appealed and the award of £50,000 was confirmed.
Both sides appealed a second time. The Court of Appeal decided to increase the award and also said that an adult child did not have to prove special circumstances or that there was a moral obligation on the part of the deceased before an award could be made.
The court decided that an adult child applicant should receive “such financial provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the applicant to receive for his maintenance”.
What is ‘Reasonable provision’?
The charities argued that Heather should receive £5000 from the Estate to take driving lessons which would help her to find work as she lived in a rural area with limited job opportunities and was unable to drive.
Heather argued she should receive all the estate of nearly £500,000 so she could buy her housing association house, build an extension and get an income from the remainder.
The Court decided there was sufficient for them to honour the deceased’s wishes by leaving money to the three charities and to Heather. It regarded reasonable financial provision as £164,000, enough for her to purchase her home and have a small amount of savings.
Lessons to be learned from the Case
First arguably a differently written Will or advice could have saved 10 years of legal proceedings and costs going through the courts.
Next, if the parties had engaged in mediation at an early stage then time and expense could have been avoided.
Thirdly any person making a Will needs to remember that since at least 1976 the law has had a say over who you can leave out of your Will, particularly if proper reasons are not given.
Finally the ability of adult children to claim has been strengthened by this case.
If, like so many people, you want to make differing provisions for members of your family and other beneficiaries then you need a Will prepared by an expert.
If you are an adult child or the parent or guardian of a child, the spouse or former spouse, or a person who was being maintained by the deceased immediately before his or her death, who you feel was not sufficiently provided in the deceased’s Will then you need legal advice. There are time limits and so you should not delay seeking advice.