Following on from the recent and well publicised Ilott case, the Financial Times reports that the ruling highlights the powers at the disposal of the courts to overrule Wills.
Steven Oliver, director of The Will Company and a long term business partner of King Court Trust, has stated that the decision may have repercussions on how professional advice is given to clients. He commented on the ruling - that overturned a mother’s wish to cut her daughter out of her will due to a family fall out - saying that people should continue to make a Will as they have always done but make sure that they emphatically state why they are choosing to disinherit a family member should this be their wish.
He said that the ruling was a twist of the original intention of the act, which is normally used for young children who are left out of Wills; “The courts have always had the power to overrule or ignore a Will if they deem it unreasonable. It is stipulated in the Inheritance, Family and Dependants Act 1975. If for example you have multiple children and leave an inheritance to only two and not the third, the courts can overrule this.”
After a long fight with the courts, the Court of Appeal awarded Mrs Ilott with £164,000 of her mother’s £486,000 estate which was originally left to three animal charities. Mr Oliver said that the ruling meant that people would have to explain their reasoning for disinheriting a dependent and demonstrate a realistic connection to the entity they left money and assets too.
“Mrs Jackson needed to show a connection to the charities – was she a volunteer, on a committee or donated over the years? And it should have been well documented why the daughter was not a beneficiary, especially with an estate of that size.”
The other issue was that Mrs Jackson was insufficiently advised when she made her Will, which highlights the importance of advice in this area. You should always ensure that you seek professional advice when drafting your Wills to ensure that you have included all of the key elements required.
Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society’s Wills and equity committee, said; “This ruling is saying that while you can still disinherit your children, you are going to have to explain why and show connections with those you are leaving money too. It is also very important because it seems to be making it easier for adult children to claim for reasonable financial provision in Wills and has made the gap wider for them to do that.”