On 1 March 2016 the Supreme Court granted three charities permission to appeal an inheritance dispute. The Court of Appeal decision in 2015 attracted a significant media response and no doubt the further appeal will do likewise.
The majority of the deceased estate was left to three charities in the Will and no provision was made for the deceased’s only child, Mrs Ilott, after the mother and daughter had become estranged over many years and attempts at reconciliation had failed.
Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from her late mother’s estate and in 2015 the Court of Appeal awarded her money from the estate to allow her to purchase her housing association home and payments of up to £20,000 structured in a way to preserve her state benefits.
The charities have now appealed to the Supreme Court to consider whether the Court of Appeal was wrong in their handling of the original appeal by Mrs Ilott following her claim under the 1975 Act. The latest appeal will also consider whether the Court of Appeal erred in its approach to the ‘maintenance’ standard under the 1975 Act or was wrong to structure an award under the 1975 Act in a way which allowed Mrs Ilott to preserve her entitlement to state benefits.
Opinions have been polarised since media attention last year following the Court of Appeal decision in favour of Mrs Ilott, and this month following the announcement that the charities have been given permission to appeal. The view of some is that the court had gone too far in altering the outcome of the Will made by the deceased in circumstances that the Will had been validly created at a time there was no doubt about mental capacity. Other’s feel that the charities’ further appeal of the Court of Appeal decision is the wrong approach for a charity to take in the circumstances.
The latest appeal is not to consider whether the outcome under the Will should be reinstated, which would result in no provision for Mrs Ilott, but will focus on the amount and structure of the award to Mrs. Ilott out of the estate.
A common misconception in claims of this type is that costs will always come out of the estate. In fact no costs restrictions apply to automatically limit in a particular way the costs award the court can make. Whichever party succeeds on the appeal is not necessarily destined for only a pyrrhic victory.
A definite one to watch.
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