Supreme Court gives Judgment in landmark case for Inheritance and Testamentary Freedom.
  • 16th Mar 2017

Mrs Ilott pursued a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the “Act”) having been estranged and ultimately disinherited by her mother Mrs Jackson, who died in 2004. The legal proceedings which were concluded yesterday, over a decade after Mrs Jackson’s death, are largely seen as one of the most important test cases for testamentary freedom and the proper application of the Act.

In 1978 Mrs Jackson had not approved of Mrs Ilott’s then boyfriend, as a consequence Mrs Ilott, ran away from home and ultimately got married. This triggered an irreconcilable breakdown in relationship between mother and daughter. This dispute was at the heart of the daughter’s disinheritance under Mrs Jackson’s Will in 2002. Mrs Jackson’s estate was valued at £486,000 upon her death in 2004. This was left to a number of charitable bodies and Mrs Ilott, of limited financial means, was left without.

At first instance Mrs Ilott was awarded £50,000 as the Court found that reasonable financial provision had not been made by Mrs Jackson for her daughter’s maintenance. A number of appeals and hearings took place before the Court of Appeal awarded Mrs. Ilott the sum of £143,000 to buy a house and a further £20,000. The Court of Appeal found that the original Judge was in error in the method of calculating what constituted “reasonable financial provision”. In addition, the Court of Appeal found error in the making of the award without knowledge of the effect it would have on Mrs Ilott’s benefits, upon which she largely depended.

The Supreme Court found that that Mrs Ilott was not wronged as a consequence if indeed the Judge was in error. Mrs Ilott’s original award of £50,000 was reinstated and the Court set out a thorough interpretation of the current law, but pointed to the need for law reform to meet the need of modern family structures and the broad spectrum of opinions on the subject of inheritance.

Today’s Judgment will provide useful guidance for the application of the Act for the foreseeable future. Click the link for the full Judgment: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0203.html