On Monday, 12 December 2016, the Supreme Court heard evidence in an appeal brought by three charities in the long running case of Ilott v Mitson. The claim was initially brought by a daughter against her mother’s estate after most of it had been left to charity. The charities lost in the Court of Appeal and now seek to overturn that judgment.
Mrs Jackson, the mother in this case, died in 2004. Mrs Ilott became estranged from her mother, Mrs Jackson, from the age of 17 and remained so for the rest of her mother’s life despite several attempts at reconciliation. In Mrs Jackson’s will, she left the majority of her estate to three charities (including the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA))and made no provision for her only child, Mrs Ilott.
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 received an initial award of £50,000 in 2007 however she then appealed against the amount of this award. In July 2015, the Court of Appeal allowed Mrs Ilott’s appeal and set aside the original award of £50,000 and substituted it with its own award of:
a) £143,000 to enable Mrs Ilott to purchase her housing association home;
b) The reasonable costs of the purchase; and
c) Payments up to a maximum of £20,000 structured in a way that would allow Mrs Ilott to preserve her state benefits.
The charities are now to appeal this decision the Supreme Court. The case of Ilott v Mitson has significantly changed legal understanding as it was previously difficult for ‘adult children’ to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeal decision, it is likely to encourage many more disgruntled ‘adult children’ may seek to bring claims of this kind in the future. The judgment from the Supreme Court is expected in the New Year.