Contest a will – Challenging the Distribution

By Mark Keeley of Freeth Cartwright Solicitors

 

Did you know that adult children may be able to claim a share of a deceased parent’s estate?

In the recent Court of Appeal decision of Ilott v Mitson, an adult child who had not seen her deceased mother for 26 years was awarded a share of the mother’s estate.

The mother had left all her estate totalling £486,000 to charity.  She had one daughter, Mrs Ilott, but left nothing to her.  Mrs Ilot brought a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Mrs Ilott was married with five children and lived modestly. She had no physical or mental disabilities.  She also had chosen not to work so that she could raise her family.

She had not had contact with her mother for 26 years.  A letter left with the will indicated that her mother had decided not to make any provision to Mrs Ilott, as Mrs Ilott had married young without her mother’s approval.

Despite all of the above, Mrs Ilott brought a claim against her mother’s estate.  She claimed that the will did not make reasonable financial provision for her.  Most legal commentators did not think that the daughter would succeed in her claim, in particular because of the lack of contact between mother and daughter.

However, the Court of Appeal upheld her claim and she will receive a lump sum payment from the estate.  The Court of Appeal stated that an adult child does not need to show special circumstances, a moral obligation or financial dependency to succeed in claiming that a will did not make reasonable financial provision.

In this particular case, the Court simply felt it was unreasonable in light of the daughter’s very limited financial circumstances for the mother to leave nothing to her, particularly when under the will everything was left to charity.

If you wish to exclude someone close to you from benefitting under your will, such as a partner or a child, you should consider the impact of that exclusion.  You should ask yourself whether your actions will be considered reasonable and whether the excluded person is likely to bring a claim.

It is sensible to take legal advice in respect of any will but the need for careful consideration with a solicitor is particularly highlighted in this case.  Also, it is always worth speaking to a solicitor if you consider that the will does not make reasonable provision for you.