Where does your money go when you pass away ?
We received a great deal of interest following the much publicised Court of Appeal decision to award a daughter a share of her late mother’s estate. Much of this interest came about following media appearances both on BBC News and 3 Counties Radio by our Head of Family Department, Sharon Montgomery.
You may have missed our special newsletter article, so if you did, here it is again.
You will have undoubtedly seen the media headlines when it was announced that the Court of Appeal awarded Mrs Heather Ilott a third of her late mother’s estate – Mrs Melita Jackson, despite what her mother had written in her Will.
Our Head of Family, Sharon Montgomery, was interviewed on both BBC News 24 and BBC Three Counties Radio – listen to her at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02x6f12#auto (2 hours 19 minutes into the broadcast).
If you are thinking about excluding someone from your Will, or if you wish to include charities in your Will, please have a chat with us so that we can ensure you get the right advice tailored to your personal circumstances.
Mrs Ilott based her case on the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which allows for a claim to be made for ‘reasonable financial provision’.
Mrs Ilott was able to persuade the Court of Appeal that the absence of provision was 'unreasonable' despite the lack of contact over the years as well as her mother not having any close association with the three charities in her Will.
Many commentators have said that this decision devalues the right of an individual to decide to whom they can leave their estate.
We believe that the decision has changed very little. The Court of Appeal stressed they needed to follow the words of the Act thereby ignoring the issue as to whether Mrs Jackson had a moral obligation to leave money to her daughter, and simply focussed on whether the provision made for Mrs Ilott was reasonable.
The Court had to look at the differing needs of both Mrs Ilott and the three charities as beneficiaries. On the one hand, Mrs Ilott was a mother of five, partly dependant on state benefits whereas the three charities had no individual obvious need.
On this basis, we can understand why the Court decided that it was reasonable to make at least some provision for her. However, the size of the award is only 1/3rd of the entire estate, and as such demonstrates the Court’s reluctance to override a person’s specific wishes and testamentary freedoms.
The key issue and something that we would tell every client who wishes to exclude someone from their Will is to remember that whilst a person may be able to make a claim, how successful they will be will depend upon all the specific and particular circumstances at that time and to remember that very few claims are made and of those very few are successful.
Mrs Ilott’s mother decided that she did not want her daughter to benefit from her estate when she died so a Will was professionally drawn up leaving her entire estate to three animal charities.
There was no question of any undue influence being made upon Mrs Jackson or challenging her mental capacity at the time of making her Will.
The benefit for your loved ones or charities in having a Will always outweigh the problems that occur for those left behind if you do not write a Will.