You might have heard about the case of Heather Ilot, who was awarded £164,000 from her mother’s estate after a decade of court battles even though the mother had written her out of her Will. There was much debate about this case in the news in July 2015 when the final decision was made that this could be the end of testamentary freedom, i.e. the freedom to choose who your money goes to after your death. This is not the case.
In this specific case, there were particular circumstances that led to the money being awarded to the daughter by the courts. Her father had died before she was born and his employer paid out a substantial amount of money to the mother as compensation for her husband’s death. This money was used to pay off their mortgage and the mother raised Heather as a single parent. When the daughter turned 17 she eloped with her boyfriend which led to a permanent rift between mother and daughter. Her mother never forgave Heather and refused to reconcile even though Heather made several attempts. Heather has 5 children and has to rely on benefits to survive with her family.
When the mother died aged 70 in 2004 she had left her entire estate (to the value of nearly £500,000) to three charities (The Blue Cross, The RSPB and the RSPCA) and nothing to her daughter. She had never shown any particular interest in these charities during her lifetime. Heather Ilot contested the Will and after a 10year court battle with several rounds of appeals she was finally awarded £144,000 to buy her housing association home and £20,000 to supplement her benefits.
This judgment was mainly due to the fact that her father’s early death had resulted in a cash lump sum from his employer that was to benefit both Heather and her mother and the mother’s Will did not reflect the benefit of this lump sum to the daughter. Had there been no money from the father, the judgment might have turned out very differently.
In case of a contest against a Will, each case is decided on its own facts. The law in this area remains unchanged by the Ilot case. In order to successfully challenge a Will, the family member must have grounds to do so. These can be that they were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of their death, or that the deceased was coerced into making a Will, or lacked mental capacity at the time the Will was executed.
As a Will Writer it is my job to advise you if I believe that your Will is likely to be contested, the likely consequences that may arise and to give possible solutions for your particular circumstances.
If you have any further questions about the creating a Will please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I, Amanda Harris, am a trained lawyer and a member of the Society of Will Writers. I visit my clients in their own homes at their convenience and am based in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. You can find out what my clients have said about my work on my website www.alhlegal-willwriters.co.uk/testimonials or get in touch by phone 0115 8780417 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org