On Monday, the Court of Appeal gave what the press are calling a ‘landmark ruling’ in the case of Ilott v Mitson.

Mrs Jackson died in 2004 at the age of 70 leaving a net estate worth £486,000. Her Will left a pecuniary legacy of £5,000 to the BBC Benevolent Fund and the remainder of her estate of to three charities, of all whom she had no connection with during her lifetime (Blue Cross, RSPB and RSPCA). Mrs Jackson left nothing to her daughter, Heather Ilott.

The facts of the case are that Heather’s father died in June 1960 when Mrs Jackson was pregnant with Heather. He was an engineer with the BBC and died as a result of falling from a telegraph pole. His employer made a substantial payment to Mrs Jackson which she used to pay off the mortgage on the home. Heather was subsequently born in September 1960. Mrs Jackson brought her up as a single parent, working throughout to pay the bills.

Heather ran away from home at the age of 17 to live with, and later marry, Nicholas Ilott, with whom she went on to have five children. The Ilotts live on benefits in a housing association property and it was acknowledged by the Court that they live in obviously straitened and needy financial circumstances.

The Court of Appeal held that for the charities, any money from this estate was a windfall and they awarded Heather Ilott £164,000, about one third of her mother’s estate, enough to buy the house she is renting without damaging her entitlement to benefits. In part, this finding was because it was held that the matrimonial home equated to about half the estate and it was derived that the efforts of her father, rather than her mother’s was a factor should be weighted in her favour, as it must have been partly intended for her.

Lisa Moore of Larcomes Solicitors commented “The Ilott ruling is a step in a direction the Courts have been taking for some years now, and this ruling, whilst worrying for many people, has been heavily dependent upon the particular facts of this individual case”.

“It is crucial that if you make a Will which leaves a child or a member of your family disinherited for personal reasons that you take advice from an experienced and qualified legal professional, to ensure you understand the circumstances in which a Court may overturn your wishes. Equally if you are a child who feels you have been unfairly treated by your parent’s Will, you may be able to persuade a court to do something about that”.

Please do not hesitate to contact Lisa on 023 9244 8116 or email her on ljm@larcomes.co.uk if you wish to discuss the preparation of your Will or if we can be of assistance.