Tim Newsome looks at a recent landmark case, where the Court of Appeal ruled that an estranged daughter who had been deliberately excluded from her mother’s will should be awarded a share of her £486,000 estate.
Heather Ilott, who ran away from home when she was 17, had a strained relationship with mother Mrs Jackson for over 20 years. In her will Mrs Jackson left the entirety of her estate to three animal charities with which she had no previous connection. She left nothing to her daughter and gave instructions for her executors to defend any claim against made by Heather as fully as possible.
Following her mother’s death, Heather applied to the court for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act. The court decided that the late Mrs Jackson had had acted out of spite and that she had ‘unreasonably excluded’ her daughter from her will.
Claims like this can only be made by specified categories of applicant that are set out in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act, such as the spouse, civil partner or children of the deceased. The Act also allows for any person who was being maintained by the deceased for the whole of two years before their death to make a claim.
When someone dies, their will should set out how their dependents should be provided for. Where the deceased died without a valid will, the intestacy rules govern the automatic manner in which their married, or civil partner, and other close relatives, inherit their estate.
If you are not provided for under their will or the intestacy rules, or you consider that the amount you will receive is not sufficient, you might be able to bring a claim against the estate to ensure you receive a share or a greater proportion of it.
The time limit on making a claim is very strict – it must be started within six months of the grant of probate. If you think you may be entitled to make a dependency claim, take early legal advice as you will not have much time to consider your application.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.