McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Inheritance Claim – Heather Ilott – the significance

Heather Ilott, an only child, eloped at the age of 17, with her future and current husband, from the family home, where she lived with her mother, Melita Jackson.

Mrs Jackson never forgave Mrs Ilott for eloping and when making her will, in 2002, left nothing to her, giving this as the reason for not doing so.

Mrs Jackson passed away in 2004, leaving an estate worth just less than £500,000. Mrs Ilott had no expectation to receive anything but brought a claim pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that husbands, wives, partners, children and dependents receive "reasonable financial provision" from the estate of their relative or carer.

In reality, the purpose of the Act is to ensure that the state does not have to pick up the tab for those who have been dependent on someone who has passed away and nothing is left for them.

Mrs Ilott, lives in a Housing Association property with her husband and 5 children. She is in receipt of state benefits, struggles to afford clothing and food and, her barrister submitted, has never had a holiday.

The Court has discretion as to what constitutes "reasonable financial provision" and must take into account the circumstances of the individual case.

Mrs Ilot was originally awarded £50,000 in the County Court, around 10% of the value of Mrs Jackson's estate. Various appeals by the parties followed which culminated in the Court of Appeal's recent judgment, where they awarded £164,000 to Mrs Ilott. The sum is to be largely used to purchase her Housing Association property and around £20,000 is for living expenses.

Although we appreciate that Mrs Jackson deliberately excluded Mrs Ilott from her Will and those wishes have been reversed, we do not believe the decision to be particularly surprising.

Mrs Ilott has been awarded 30% of Mrs Jackson's estate in circumstances where Mrs Ilott, is on benefits and has 5 children. Given the purpose of the legislation, this seems a reasonable outcome. We do not believe the case will open the floodgates in respect of Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 claims. However, it may be of assistance where there is a large estate and the dependent is on benefits.

If you want to make a Will or contest a Will please get in touch for some advice 0161 928 3848.

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