Is it easy to bring an inheritance claim?

Judith Thompson

The Court of Appeal ruling in the recent case of Ilot v Mitson has raised the possibility of many more Inheritance Act claims, suggests Abbie Kingdon, head of private client services at Samuels Solicitors.

Heather Ilot's mother, Melita Jackson, died in 2004 at the age of 70 leaving her estate (valued at £486,000) to three animal charities. Mrs Jackson made no provision at all for Mrs Ilot, who was her only child. 

Mrs Ilot challenged the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependents) Act 1975, which enables certain categories of individuals to bring a claim against a deceased person's estate in circumstances where insufficient provision has been made for that individual. In determining whether or not to make an award under the 1975 Act, the Court considered a number of factors.

The Court will generally only make an award to an adult child in circumstances where the adult child was financially dependent on his or her deceased parent. However in Ilot v Mitson, the Court went beyond this usual principle.

Mrs Heather Ilot was 54 years old. She had left home at the age of 17 to live with a boyfriend, for which her mother had never forgiven her. At the time of Melita Jackson's death Mrs Ilot had five children and was dependent on state benefits. She rented her home from a housing association and had no pension.

The Court of Appeal carried out a balancing exercise to decide whether Mrs Ilot should have a share of her mother's estate. The Court looked at the effect on the animal charities  and considered Mrs Ilot's financial circumstances. The Court held that the three charities had not demonstrated "need or expectation", and found that the late Mrs Jackson had no connection with them. Mrs Ilot's dire financial circumstances outweighed the importance that would normally be attached to the fact that she was not financially dependent on her late mother.

Successful claims by adult able-bodied children are rare. The case of Ilot v Mitson may well make it easier for adult children to challenge a deceased parent's will but each case will be decided on their own facts.  

You should consult a solicitor if:

  • you are intending to cut your child out of your will, or only leave them a minimal amount; or
  • you have been left out of your parent's will.

At Samuels, we have a wealth of experience, not only in drafting wills, but also in bringing successful claims in circumstances where estates have not been distributed fairly and a dispute about inheritance has arisen. 

Contact us today for a free no obligation discussion about how we can help.