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Could your wishes specified in your will be overruled by the Court?

Could your wishes specified in your will be overruled by the Court?
Thursday 30th July 2015

The recent Court of Appeal case which saw Mrs Ilott win £164,000 from her mother’s estate despite being written out of her will, has attracted great media attention and rightly so.

Whilst some headlines report that this case is ground breaking and undermines the reasons for making a will, in our view, this is going too far.

The late Mrs Jackson fell out with her only daughter when she decided to elope and get married at the age of 17. When Mrs Jackson died in 2004, having never reconciled with her daughter, she had left her entire estate (all £489,000 of it) to three charities. She instructed her Executors to fight any claim brought by her daughter.

It has been reported that Mrs Ilott (now aged 54) has five children, is on benefits, has no pension, and was living in rented social housing accommodation.

Mrs Ilott’s claim that her mother had failed to make reasonable financial provision for her, brought under the Inheritance (provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 was successful. The judges were influenced by the fact that Mrs llott had “real financial need” and also that Mrs Jackson had little association with the charities who she wished to benefit from her estate.

Unfortunately, family relationships sometimes break down and in such circumstances, people do feel that they should have the right to exclude a particular family member from benefitting if they so wish.

Whilst this decision does seems to undermine that very principle, it has to be said that the judges’ reasoning is very much dependent on the specific facts. In assessing a claim under the 1975 Act, the court has to decide whether the provision made in a will is “reasonable” with particular regard to the needs and resources of the parties. In this case, the claimant was in specific financial need and the charities were not.  The award was limited to a level that would enable Mrs Ilott to buy a property and to have a small cash sum that would not affect her state benefits.'

Generally speaking, adult children not in financial need will still face an uphill battle in bringing a successful claim.

For those who anticipate potential disputes in respect of their own estates, thought should also be given to the steps that could be taken to make a will as robust as possible. Setting out a detailed explanation of what is being done, and why, explaining your connection to those you intend to benefit, and perhaps even giving a degree of flexibility to your Executors to determine how part of your estate is distributed could mitigate the risks.

For further information on the case, please see

If you would like more information about estate planning and/or wish to create a new Will or update your existing one, please contact the private client team.