Anna Sutcliffe, inheritance specialist at Leamington-based Wright Hassall

Member Article

High profile could lead to more contested wills

A Midlands law firm has warned that there could be a substantial increase in the number of people contesting wills following a high-profile case in which a claimant successfully overturned her mother’s will.

Heather Ilott received no inheritance from her mother’s estate following her death in 2004. The estate - which amounted to £486,000 - was left to three animal charities to which she had no connection during her lifetime.

Although the two had been estranged for 20 years, Ilott won her claim to receive a share of her mother’s estate in the sum of £164,000. Concerns are now rising over the outcome and what it means for both adult children and those making wills.

Anna Sutcliffe, inheritance specialist at Leamington-based Wright Hassall, said: “Due to the high levels of publicity surrounding the case more adult children may now be encouraged to make claims, particularly if the will does not make financial provision for the child’s maintenance and they are of small means.

“The important thing to remember about Heather Ilott’s case is that the appeal’s result was a fact specific decision that had exceptional circumstances.

“Not only this, Ilott was able to claim against her mother’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision For Family And Dependants) Act 1975, so really the outcome has brought to people’s attention the existing Act, rather than evolving the law.

“Claimants should however bear in mind the time limit for making a claim, which is six months from when a grant of probate is secured.”

Anna said courts will continue to handle each dispute on a case-by-case basis and advised anyone in doubt about their will to seek professional advice.

“With regards to those making wills, if you plan to disinherit your children, we advise that you explicitly stipulate the reason for your decision and, where you plan to leave legacies to a charity, you must demonstrate a lifetime connection to those charities,” she added.

“The position remains that it is prudent for anyone considering an inheritance dispute to obtain professional advice.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Matt Joyce .

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