Claiming An inheritance
Can you claim against the estate of your parent if you were not included in the Will?
There has been a recent case which highlights the issues the Court will look at.
Ilot –v- Mitson 2014
In the case of Ilot –v- Mitson 2014 Heather Ilot, the claimant, brought a claim against the estate of her mother. The Claimant was an only child and the only surviving member of the family. She had not been left anything in her mother’s Will. Instead her mother had left everything to three charities.
The Claimant had been estranged from her mother for over 30 years as she did not approve of her daughter’s lifestyle. The Claimant went on to marry and have 5 children. The family lived modestly and relied heavily on benefits due to a limited household income.
Over the years the Claimant made a number of attempts at reconciliation with her mother, however these were all rejected. When her mother passed away, her estate was valued at £486,000.
The Right to Claim
At the original Court Hearing the District Judge decided that although Claimant was an adult this did not prevent her from making a claim and it was relevant that the Claimant had limited means. Therefore, the deceased was found to have not made reasonable provision for her daughter in her Will. As the Claimant had not had any expectation that her Mother would make any such provision, the Judge awarded her £50,000.
The decision was appealed by both parties, the Charities argued that no provision at all should be made for the Claimant. The Claimant appealed for more than £50,000. High Court decided in favour of the charities and cancelled the award of £50,000.
Ms Ilot then took her claim to the Court of Appeal. Although the Court found problems on both sides her appeal for financial payment was successful and the award of £50,000 was reinstated.
How much should be awarded?
The Claimant argued that the District Judge had been wrong to limit the award to £50,000 and that any sum over £16,000 would reduce her benefits unless it was used to purchase the home she was living in and £50,000 was not enough to buy the home.
The Charities’ responded by stating that the district judge had rejected the Claimant’s figures as being excessive. The crucial point was that the District Judge had determined that the claimant and her husband had survived on her benefits for a number of years without any assistance from the deceased.
This meant that the daughter was not dependent on her Mother prior to her death.
Court of Appeal Decision
The Court of Appeal found that they had adhere to the deceased’s wishes and although the Claimant had lived in very difficult financial circumstances for many years, the Court felt that this did not justify making an award which would improve her circumstances. They did however agree with the District Judge that some award should be made and reinstated the award of £50,000.
The decision in this case as well as the changes to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 indicate that the trend of Courts to widen the scope of the Act to allow a greater number of claims is likely to continue. The Courts will make provisions for adult children, if they can show that they were maintained by their parent or there was a moral obligation for them to be provided for.
If you have recently lost a parent and feel you have been unfairly treated then please contact us.