This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

Charities can challenge daughter's award in  inheritance dispute
02 March 2016

Charities can challenge daughter's award in inheritance dispute

Three charities have been granted permission to appeal by the Supreme Court in the long running case of Ilott -v- Mitson.  

We previously considered the Court of Appeal decision here and also discussed the decision at the time in an interview with the BBC.  In the case, the deceased's adult daughter had brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against the estate of her estranged mother on the basis that she had not received reasonable financial provision from her in her Will. The majority of the estate had been left to three animal and bird charities with which the deceased had no dealings during her lifetime.  Having initially been awarded £50,000 from the £486,000 estate, this was increased on appeal to £163,000.

This controversial decision resulted in heated debates over the notion of freedom of testamentary disposition and whether it is still possible to disinherit one's children in this country where there is, technically, no system of forced heirship - unlike in other civil law jurisdictions.

For the charities, the Court of Appeal decision had an added blow as it was found that charities have no demonstrable "need" to balance against a competing claim of an eligible claimant and that any estate funds received amount to a "windfall".

The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Court of Appeal was wrong to set aside the award of £50,000 made at first instance; the manner in which the so-called "maintenance standard" was applied; and the manner in which the award was structured which enabled the claimant to preserve her entitlement to state benefits. Developments in this case will undoubtedly be watched with interest from many quarters, legal advisors and charities alike.