Spiral staircaseOne of our directors, Guy Woodward, openly admits that he’s at that stage in life when sometimes you just have to take stock and think about what the future may bring. And having a valid Will in place is high on the to-do list.

“Like others, I don’t like to think about what’s going to happen when I’m no longer around. But at least I do get some piece of mind by making sure my Will is up to date, so that my estate will go to those I would like to benefit rather than to the government.”

But a recent court case has thrown new doubt on how best to go about making a Will. Known as ‘Ilott vs Mitson’, a woman who had been cut out of her mother’s Will has been awarded an inheritance in what could prove to be a landmark ruling.

So we asked one of our professional contacts, Fiona Wheeler of solicitors The Burnside Partnership, who specialise in Wills and Estate Planning, to help guide us through this particular case and the potential impact it could have on others:

Fiona, what’s this all about?
“Basically, a woman died leaving her £500,000 estate to three animal charities in her Will. Her long-estranged daughter then brought a claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act on the basis that her mother had failed to make reasonable provision for her.

At a second Court of Appeal hearing, the daughter was awarded £163,000 from the estate to purchase her housing association property. “

Why is this so unusual?
“For an adult child without disabilities to receive an award of this size is a significant departure from decades of case law. The daughter’s case succeeded because the estrangement had started when she was only 17 and her treatment by her mother was seen as very unfair. She had failed from that age to establish herself financially and was living on State benefits with limited future earning capacity. It was also relevant that a large proportion of the mother’s estate was made up of a payment made on her death of her husband shortly before her daughter’s birth”.

What is expected to happen now?
“For those in less extreme circumstances the implications of this decision remain to be seen. But the case is expected to invite many more claims along these lines.”

What advice would you give people in light of this case?
“Many people choose not to benefit their children under their Wills and in almost all cases, the reasons are more logical and reasonable than in Ilott vs Mitson. For those people, recording their reasons in a clear and factual way is essential.

Above all, the case illustrates the importance of considering not just the Will itself but also the issues which can arise after death so that your wishes can be given proper effect.”

Thanks very much Fiona. Plenty of food for thought there and, as ever, we recommend that people take appropriate advice in preparing – or updating – a Will.