Charities’ success on appeal: Ilott v Mitson – the final hearing

The Supreme Court yesterday handed down their judgement in the long running inheritance dispute Ilott v. Mitson.

The case has been widely reported in the press, but by way of summary, the case was as follows:

  • Mrs Jackson died leaving a Will in which she left her entire estate to charities. The estate was worth just under £500,000.
  • Mrs Jackson had a daughter, Mrs Ilott from whom she had been estranged since 1978. Mrs Jackson had left a letter detailing her reasons for disinheriting her daughter.
  • Mrs Jackson died in 2004 and her daughter claimed against the estate on the basis that reasonable financial provision had not been made for her.
  • Mrs Ilott had limited financial resources of her own and was essentially reliant on state benefits to supplement her living costs. Mrs Ilott was renting a property from a Housing Association and in receipt of housing benefit.

At the first hearing of the case, the District Judge awarded a lump sum of £50,000 to Mrs Ilott on the basis that the Will did not make reasonable financial provision for her. In those circumstances, the court has to consider what is reasonable to meet the claimant’s maintenance. Mrs Ilott appealed against this amount as she did not think that a sufficiently large sum had been awarded.

When the case came before the Court of Appeal, the Court calculated a different award to provide Mrs Ilott the following:

  • A lump sum of £143,000 to buy the house she lived in; and
  • The option to receive a further £20,000 in one or more instalments.

This award was made on the basis that Mrs Ilott had financial needs because she was reliant on benefits and the provision of housing would help relieve some of the burden on the tax payer.

The charities subsequently appealed against this decision and the Supreme Court have upheld their appeal. This means that the Court of Appeal award has been set aside and the order made by the District Judge in the sum of £50,000 has been reinstated.

There is reference in the judgement to an agreement which has been arrived at between the parties which alludes to a financial settlement, so it is unknown what amount Mrs Ilott will take from the estate.   In any event, the appeal was not on the grounds of the size of the award but the legal principles.

It is now almost 13 years since Mrs Jackson died and this case has been in dispute since 2007. The judgement has not mentioned what costs were attributed to this case but it is not difficult to guess that the protracted proceedings will have depleted the estate.

In practical terms, for clients wishing to disinherit their children, it is imperative that proper legal advice from qualified practitioners is obtained.

For specialist advice, please contact Emsleys’ Wills & Probate team on 0113 201 4900 or wills.probate@emsleys.co.uk.

Helen Gott

Written by

Helen Gott

Director & Head of Wills & Probate

Helen has over 8 years’ experience in the private client field. She is an expert in wills, probate, administration of trusts and estates, court of protection, mental incapacity and Powers of Attorney. Helen carries out Deputyship work and has developed a niche in this area, acting as Deputy for an increasing number of...

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