A number of charities have voiced concern following this week’s decision by the Court of Appeal, in the case of a Hertfordshire woman cut out of her mother’s Will, to award her £164,000 inheritance. This decision has meant that the gift in the mother’s Will to three charities has been significantly reduced. Much of the media coverage has rightly voiced concern that freedom to choose who you leave your money to has been curtailed by this decision.
The court heard Mrs Ilott, 54, had eloped at the age of 17 with her boyfriend and had been estranged from her mother for the decades since. As a result of the estrangement, her mother did not want her to benefit from her estate and instead chose to benefit the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross charities in her Will.
Whilst there was no undue influence or issues of mental capacity impacting the validity of the Will, Mrs Ilott brought her challenge under powers given to the court by the Inheritance Act 1975 to make the award to Mrs Ilott at the expense of the charities.
A district judge awarded her £50,000 in 2011. She failed in her challenge for a bigger award at the High Court last year, but has now succeeded at the Court of Appeal.
The representative for the charities described it as “a worrying decision for anyone who values having the freedom to choose who will receive their property when they die”.
It is now expected that the case will be taken on appeal to the Supreme Court. However, if pursued, it is likely to take months to reach a conclusion.
In the meantime, we encourage anyone making a Will that benefits charities to record in detail strong reasons for their decision and to explain what connects them to the people or organisations that they have included in their Wills. This will help to avoid circumstances that might lead to a challenge by a disappointed family member.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.