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Mother’s Charitable Will Brings Inheritance Act Into Play

Family Dispute 'Highlights Options'


According to an expert in Wills, Trusts & Estates disputes at Irwin Mitchell, the case of a mother who chose to leave her estate to animal charities highlights some of the ways in which terms of wills can be challenged.

Heather Ilott, 50, is contesting, at the Court of Appeal, the will of her mother Melita Jackson in which she outlines plans for £486,000 to be passed on to various third sector bodies including the RSPB and RSPCA.

Reports have revealed that a long-running family dispute is the reason Mrs Ilott, from Hertfordshire, does not feature in the will, with the daughter claiming that they fell out over her decision to name her fifth child after Mrs Jackson’s sister-in-law.

In addition, Mrs Ilott has also suggested that her mother was not an active supporter of the charities that she chose to leave her money to.

Louise Sykes, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell and Head of the Wills, Trusts & Estates Disputes team, said: “While donating to charities is common in wills, this case highlights the options available to family members and others who have an issue with the decision.

“A remedy available when a person feels they have not been reasonably provided for under the terms of a will is to bring a Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

“Only certain categories of people, such as spouses, civil partners, children, co-habitees (who have lived with the deceased for at least two years up to their death) and people who have been maintained in whole or in part by the deceased, can make a claim under the Act and there a range of factors to be considered.”

Issues which need to be considered in claims made under the Act include:
• the financial circumstances of all those involved
• the size of the estate
• any disabilities of the parties
• the age of the person making the claim
• the length of any marriage or civil partnership
• the contribution made by the individuals to the marriage/civil partnership/family both financially and otherwise
• in the cases of claims made by spouses, what a person would have received had the marriage/ civil partnership been dissolved by Order of the Court, rather than being terminated by death
• any other special circumstances

Louise Sykes added: “We have a great deal of experience in bringing and defending claims under this legislation, seeing first-hand the range of disputes and issues that can arise during such cases.

“Ultimately, it highlights not only the impact of family politics on the making of wills, but also the fact that will terms can be challenged by relevant parties.
“While we would urge anyone to think fairly and reasonably when drafting a will, it must be added that there is help for those who genuinely believe that the terms of the will can be disputed.”

If you are involved in a will dispute or need further information about contesting a will, please visit our Will, Trust & Estate Disputes section