Tuesday, 28 July 2015
Where there's a will...
Children who are ‘cut out’ of their parents’ wills could find it easier to claim part of their estate after a landmark legal ruling, a Shropshire lawyer has said.
Andrew Oranjuik claimed this week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal could pave the way for other wills to be overturned or changed by the courts, if they were deemed to be ‘unfair’.
Mr Oranjuik, head of commercial litigation at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, was commenting after the end of a 10-year legal battle by Heather Ilott, who went to court after her mother Melita Jackson left her entire £486,000 estate to animal charities.
Mrs Ilott, who has been estranged from her mother for 26 years and was claiming benefits, has now been granted a third of her late mother’s estate – a total of £164,000.
Mr Oranjuik based at Martin-Kaye’s Euston Way head office in Telford, said the decision could significantly weaken people's right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.
“In light of this decision, it is arguably now easier for an adult child to make out a claim for maintenance in the right circumstances,” he said.
“The case emphasises the long-established principle that the terms of a deceased person’s will do not always prevail.”
He added: “There has long been the ability for children of deceased people to claim reasonable financial provision for maintenance. That often involves the child having relied on maintenance provided by the parent or being dependent.
“What is unusual about this case is that Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her mother for 26 years, and was not in any way dependent on her.
“The court was however influenced by other factors. Mrs Ilott had a very small income and received tax credits and she had no pension. The fact that the named charities were unable to establish a need for the entire estate was also a factor, as was the fact that Mrs Jackson had no previous connection with them.”
Mr Oranjuik said: “Essentially this ruling means you can still disinherit your children, but if you want it to stand up in court, you will have to explain why, as well as explaining what connects you to those you do leave money to.
“That'll make it easier for adult disinherited children to challenge wills and claim greater sums by way of what the courts would deem a ‘reasonable provision’.”