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The Inheritance Act 1975 - Don't leave it to the last minute!

23 Dec 2016

The dailies have commented regularly on the saga  of Ilott v Mitson [2010] concerning the claim of an adult, estranged daughter against the estate of her late mother, for reasonable provision for her maintenance under the Inheritance ( Provision for Family and Dependants ) Act 1975.  The deceased had made no provision for her daughter, as she had, in effect,  disowned her. The deceased strongly disapproved when her daughter left home, at quite a young age, to live with a man, whose lifestyle did not meet the deceased’s expectations! The deceased did not approve of her daughter subsisting on state benefits.

The deceased left all her estate to charities, with which she had no long term affinity, so far as could be determined in court. These charities, in the light of the court having made an award in favour of the daughter, are fighting all the way to the Supreme Court where the case will soon be heard. They are standing up, so it is said, for the principle of testamentary freedom.

A similar case has recently been decided in the Central London County Court. In Amey v Jones [2016]. A daughter, aged 41, claimed, against the estate of her late father, as he had made no provision for her in his Will. The Recorder’s view of the claim may have been coloured by the fact that the daughter took three years to apply. The applicant daughter had two teenage children, and was not working. Her lack of employment was found to be a lifestyle choice.

The most important difference, in this case, was that the entire estate passed to the deceased’s widow as beneficiary. It is true that the marriage was not too long a time before the deceased’s death, but the widow and the deceased had been a couple for over thirty years, and the court saw this as a very long term relationship.

In any event the daughter’s evidence, of her needs and resources, and her relationship with her father, was found to be unreliable, and the court did not therefore accept it as convincing.

Ultimately the claim failed; the Recorder was not convinced of the claimant’s needs, and furthermore found that the widow, because of her age, needed the entire estate to maintain herself. The daughter failed to establish a moral claim on the estate, let alone a legal one.

Clearly in Ilott v Mitson, the defendants are charities, so they cannot easily establish that they “need” to inherit. The moral for a testator determined to disown in these circumstances is to establish a pattern of lifetime giving or volunteering in favour of one’s residuary charities as soon as possible – do not leave it to the last minute!!


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