WBW Solicitor Amy Kernohan advises:
In this Country, we have the freedom to make a Will leaving our estate to whomever we desire when we die. However, we also have the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”), which allows certain categories of people to bring a claim against an estate if they have not received “reasonable financial provision”.
One of the categories which is seeing more claims than every before is that of children. Many assume that they only have an obligation to provide for a minor child who continues to be financially dependant upon them. This is not the case! The child category is not restricted to minor children – adult, independent children are also able to bring a claim.
Almost two years ago a case reached the Court of Appeal where an estranged daughter of a woman who made a Will leaving most of her estate to charity was successful in bringing a claim. Melita Jackson died in 2004 aged 70, having left a Will giving her £486,000 estate to charity. Mrs Jackson had one daughter, who she had excluded. Her daughter, Mrs Ilott, left home at the age of 17 years asking her mother not to contact her. Between the time Mrs Ilott left home and the date of her mother’s death, the two of them spoke only twice.
Mrs Jackson wrote a letter to her Executors explaining her reasons for excluding her daughter, and had also made previous Wills excluding her daughter and explaining why. Despite this, the Court made an award to Mrs Ilott largely due to her financial need and lack of financial resources.
Since this date there have been an abundance of claims brought by adult children. It is thought that very few have reached the doors of the Court, and instead settlements have been reached during the course of proceedings – but nonetheless adult child claims have risen as a result of this case.
It is very difficult to explain to a client that they can make a Will excluding a child but that they may then bring a successful claim for financial provision in any event. This should not deter people from makes Wills, but they should be encouraged to speak with a solicitor about the making of Will to ensure everything possible is done to try to safeguard your estate.
The Inheritance Act is worth bearing in mind whether you wish to make a Will excluding someone who falls into one of the categories or a loved one has passed away and reasonable provision has not been made for you.
WBW have a specialist dedicated to acting in Will and Inheritance Disputes. For assistance in a claim, whether bringing or defending, contact WBW.