Many have found the widely-reported decision reached in the case of Heather Ilott unsettling and are concerned about the implications of this judgment on their own Wills.
This case involved Melita Jackson, who died in 2004 leaving nothingto her estranged daughter Heather Ilott; instead she instructed that her £486,000 estate be divided between four charities. After an eight-year battle, her daughter has now been awarded £164,000. Challenging the Will under the 1975 Inheritance Act, Ilott was originally
awarded £50,000. However, as Jackson had stipulated that her executors were to fight any challenge her daughter might make, the case then went to the High Court which ruled that Ilott shouldn’t be awarded anything. The matter finally ended up in the Court of Appeal which ruled that she should be awarded £164,000 to purchase her housing association home and £20,000 to supplement her state benefits.
FACTORS IN THIS RULING
The fact that Ilott could demonstrate financial hardship played a major part in the decision. So too did the fact that her mother had little contact with the animal charities she nominated. Will there now be more adult children challenging the Wills of their parents? This seems unlikely, especially as it has always been possible to mount a challenge under the 1975 Inheritance Act in cases of financial hardship. Nor does it follow that courts will, from now on, disregard a Will that fails to leave money to a particular person, or sets aside bequests to charities.
However, if for any reason you want to exclude someone from benefiting under your Will, you should write what’s called a ‘Letter of Wishes’ to back up the decision, and give this to your executor and ensure that you explain to your family why you have made your decision. Every adult should make a Will to avoid their estate being administered
under the laws of intestacy. If you have a Will but your circumstances have changed through marriage (which normally invalidates an earlier Will) or death of a spouse or other life-changing event, it is worth reviewing the content and ensuring it reflects your current wishes.
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Professional advice is essential
When it comes to looking after our retirement planning and investments, vigilance and professional advice are essential. If you are wondering what to do, contact Robert Bruce Associates for individual assistance.