On Wednesday 15 March 2017, the Supreme Court handed down the long-awaited judgement in Ilott v. The Blue Cross & others, the first case under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to reach the UK’s highest court.

It is a keystone of the law that a person is able to leave their estate to whomever they wish in their will. However, there are circumstances in which the courts recognise that some individuals ought to be able to make a claim on the deceased’s estate, regardless of whether or not they were provided for in the will or by the rules of intestacy. The mechanism for such claims is provided by The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Act’). 

The factual background

In Ilott v The Blue Cross & others, the claimant made an application under the Act as an estranged adult daughter of the deceased.

In 2004, the deceased had died leaving behind an inheritance of approximately £500,000 to a variety of animal charities by a will which excluded Mrs Ilott.

Mrs Ilott claimed her mother’s will failed to make reasonable financial provision for her and sought to rely on her poor financial means

At first instance, the court awarded £50,000 to Mrs Ilott. She appealed against this award on the basis that it was too low and deprived her of means-tested benefits. After a lengthy appeals process, the Court of Appeal awarded Mrs Ilott £143,000 so that she could buy the house she lived in and an option to receive a further £20,000 in one or more instalments. The charities appealed against this decision and on 15 March 2017 the Supreme Court made a unanimous judgement which reinstated the award of £50,000 made by the District Judge at the first trial.

It is now clear that making reasonable provision for “maintenance” does not mean providing everything the applicant reasonably needs, and the Supreme Court’s judgement makes clear that an applicant’s needs will not necessarily be the measure of an award under the Act.

It has also been clarified that the Act requires a single assessment by the judge, and this assessment can be affected by a number of factors, which in this case, included the long 26 year estrangement between Mrs Ilott and her mother.

(Visit the Supreme Court website to read the full details of the case)

How rhw can help you

The passing away of someone close to you can be a very difficult time and unfortunately, for reasons beyond your control, the inheritance issues which follow can often become contested and add to these difficulties.

When drafting a will, our expert legal advisors can advise you to help reduce these difficulties.

If disputes arise after death, rhw also have specialist expertise to protect and fight for your interests. Find out more information on Wills.

If you wish to discuss an inheritance dispute please call 01483 302000 or email us: guildford@rhw.co.uk to arrange an initial conversation without charge or obligation.

Author:  Daniel Crate.

Email: daniel.crate@rhw.co.uk

If you enjoyed this article and the Ilott v The Blue Cross case, then keep an eye out for other articles in the Guildford law blog.