Debra Burton of Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors

Member Article

Did the law regarding wills change?  No!

A Teesside lawyer has cautioned that a recent highly-publicised case could lead to adult children who have been disinherited being disappointed when claims against their parents’ estate do not necessarily deliver the ‘windfall’ they believe they are entitled to.

Debra Burton, Associate Solicitor and specialist in Contentious Probate with Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors, spoke out following the recent news of the Court of Appeal awarding a Mrs Ilott, who was estranged from her late mother, approximately a third of the £486,000 estate despite the deceased leaving it entirely to three animal charities and being quite clear that she wanted her daughter to receive nothing.

She said: “Contrary to beliefs, the law has not changed. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act, which has been around since 1975, allows certain categories of people to apply to the court for reasonable financial provision from a deceased’s estate if they are not provided for by the will or the intestacy rules. It is possible that the publicity surrounding this case could lead to an increase in claims by those disinherited by parents or other family members. However, it is important to understand that each case is considered on its own merits and anyone considering making such a claim needs first to seek expert advice.”

The 1975 Act permits the court to consider whether the will or intestacy rules failed to make reasonable financial provision for a claimant. Only specific people are entitled to make a claim with some, such as the deceased’s spouse or civil partner, being entitled to a higher claim compared to, for instance, disinherited adult children.

In the case of Mrs Ilott, the appeal judges agreed that the mother’s will did not make reasonable financial provision for the daughter who was living in a housing association property with her husband and five children, and surviving on state benefits. Whilst the sum of £164,000 awarded to Mrs Ilott amounted to approximately a third of the total estate, it was carefully considered by the Court of Appeal to allow Mrs Ilott to purchase her council home and provide her with a small income without affecting her state benefits.

Debra added: “The court may well have been influenced by the fact that Mrs Ilott’s mother left her entire estate to three animal charities with which she’d had no association during her lifetime, in addition to the dire financial situation of her daughter. This is worth noting as, for any person wishing to disinherit someone who would ordinarily be expected to benefit from their will, the case highlights the importance of clearly setting out the reasons for choosing the beneficiaries in addition to the reasons why someone is to receive nothing. Again we would recommend seeking professional advice when making a will, not least because litigation is not cheap. A contentious probate case could potentially swallow up an entire estate in legal fees, leaving nothing for any beneficiary. It can also take a very long time to conclude. The Ilott case is a prime example of this; the deceased died in 2004 so this litigation has been rumbling on for over 10 years.”

Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors is the Tees Valley’s largest full service law firm with offices in Hartlepool, Wynyard Park, Stockton on Tees and Barnard Castle

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tilly Bailey and Irvine Solictors .

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