Do I have the right to choose who benefits from my estate?

4th April 2017 - Chloe Dutton

After a landmark legal case in March 2017, the court has reaffirmed the right for people to choose who benefits from their estate when they die.

This case involved Melita Jackson and her daughter Heather Ilott. Mrs Jackson and Mrs Ilott were estranged for 26 years and upon her death in 2004 Mrs Jackson’s Will contained no provision for the benefit of her daughter. Rather, she left her estate totaling £486,000 to various charities including the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Mrs Ilott made a claim on her mother’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 as she felt she was not adequately provided for. She was originally awarded financial provision of £50,000 by the County Court, but was handed £163,000 by the Court of Appeal to buy the housing association property she lived in plus £20,000 for additional income.

The Supreme Court has now overturned the decision by the Court of Appeal and has ordered that the initial sum of £50,000 should stand. In his judgment Lord Hughes said: “English law recognises the freedom of individuals to dispose of their assets by Will after death in whatever manner they wish…”

Here at GHW Solicitors we believe that this case highlights the different dynamics in modern families, especially with second marriages and children from previous relationships. It is vital that you get your affairs in order and take advice on making a Will so that you have taken all steps possible to avoid conflict in the future.