In 2004 Heather Ilott’s Mother died and left the majority of her estate to charities, but nothing to her daughter. Mrs Ilott then challenged her Mother’s Will and was initially awarded £50,000 by the High Court, which was then tripled on appeal. The charities more recently objected to this increase, arguing that people should be free to choose who they wish to benefit from their estate. The Supreme Court has now made its judgement and ordered that Mrs Ilott should only receive the £50,000 initially awarded.
This long awaited and landmark judgement is said to have reaffirmed the principle that everyone is free to choose who will benefit from their estate when they die. However, there are still routes, including through the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 to allow the Courts to depart from the terms of a person’s Will, in certain circumstances and this judgement does help clarify how far the Courts are able to go.
Head of Wills, Tax and Probate at Enoch Evans LLP, Richard Neea, comments that ‘the judgement given in this case sets an important benchmark as to the extent to which a person’s wishes can be overlooked by the Courts. However, I would still caution against people relying solely on the terms of a legally valid Will to achieve their wishes. As part of the Supreme Court’s rationale in this case they relied heavily on the reasoning and evidence surrounding how the Will was made, including the notes of the Solicitor who had prepared the Will. This judgement therefore not only helps to clarify the law, but in my mind strengthens the need for anyone making a Will to seek professional advice, so that if matters are ever challenged appropriate independent evidence can be produced.’
Enoch Evans LLP have been advising clients for over 130 years on making a Will and the issues surrounding a person’s estate. Our dedicated team of professionals will be happy to guide you through how to prepare a Will and how to best ensure your wishes are adhered to. If you wish to discuss the above, or any other query you may have on Wills, Estate Administration or Lasting Powers of Attorney, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Wills, Tax and Probate team.