Our thoughts on the latest developments in our specialist sectors and services.

Supreme Court rules in favour of three charities in will dispute

15 March 2017

The Supreme Court today overruled a challenge by a woman who had been excluded from her mother’s will in favour of the Blue Cross, the RSPB and the RSPCA in the well-publicised, long-running Ilott v Mitson case.

The judges overturned the increased provision for the estranged daughter previously made by the Court of Appeal and also gave some helpful analysis on assessing reasonable financial provision.

One of the stand-out points from the judgment was Lady Hale’s view that there is a lack of guidance when it comes to evaluating claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Inheritance Act).

Lady Hale remarked that the case highlighted “the unsatisfactory state of the present law, giving as it does no guidance as to the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether an adult child is deserving or undeserving of reasonable maintenance.”

Fortunately, the decision by the Supreme Court suggests that claims such as those made by the estranged daughter in this case should be limited to maintenance, rather than meeting reasonable needs at the expense of the testator’s wishes. This will be of comfort to private clients who are concerned that their wishes may not be followed; and also to the huge number of charities in the UK that depend on legacy payments for a large part of their income.

Today’s judgment, which sees an end to the 13-year case, should reassure charities that a challenge to a will, will not be an automatic threat to a charitable legacy.

Matthew Barnett, senior associate in the firm’s Private Client group, commented: “Hopefully the judgment will reaffirm the importance of testator wishes when it comes to evaluating Inheritance Act claims. Perhaps this will be the first step on the road back to sensible Inheritance Act claim judgments.”

If you would like advice on estate planning in light of the above judgment please either contact Matthew Barnett or a member of the Private Client team.

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