The decision of the Judge in the case of Ilot v Mitson, reported widely in the news recently, is worrying to many people who have made a Will, or who are considering making a Will.
When making a Will, you should give a lot of thought to deciding who to include and, sometimes, who to exclude as beneficiaries (i.e. the people who receive your estate when you die).
Once the Will is made, you would expect to have peace of mind that your wishes, as set out in the Will, would be carried out.
The reasons for excluding somebody can be:
- Family fall outs
- No contact
- That person is reasonably provided for (by you during your lifetime or they are financially well off in their own right)
- There are more preferential beneficiaries
- General dislike of the person
But any disappointed potential beneficiary not included in a Will could make a claim under s2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 provided that they fall within one of the categories of claimant defined under s1 of the Act.
Now Ilott v Mitson appears to have widened the scope for successful claimants but when looking at the decision in depth, has it really?
The facts of the case (in brief) are:
- An adult daughter fell out with her mother many years before the mother died
- There was very little contact between the two
- The mother made a Will leaving her estate between several charities
- No provision was made for the daughter on the basis of the history between them
The Court’s decision to grant the daughter a share of the estate was based on the following facts:
- The daughter had a reasonable expectation to inherit from her mother’s estate irrespective of their past relationship
- The daughter’s personal circumstances were taken into account, in that she lived in council owned accommodation and was mostly reliant on state benefits
- The deceased had little or no personal connection with the charities, in that she did not donate to them on a regular basis
- It was felt that the mother was acting spitefully in excluding her daughter from the Will
The decision made was based on a very narrow set of circumstances which were personal to the daughter herself and would not be applicable to every claim made by a potential beneficiary. Therefore this case cannot be seen to automatically set a precedent for future claims on estates.
In view of this case, when excluding someone from a Will, it is advisable to prepare a supplementary letter including the following:
- Your reason for their exclusion from the Will
- Details of your past relationship
- The reason why the beneficiaries named in the Will should benefit rather than the excluded person
- Any other supporting documents
Please be mindful that this will not prevent a disappointed person making a claim but it will provide valuable evidence as to why the claim should not succeed.