Contact one of our advisors now Call 0800 088 6004

Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others

The long-running saga of Heather Ilott and her claim for reasonable financial provision from her late mother’s Estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants)  Act 1975 continued to the Supreme Court earlier this week.
In the controversial case, Heather Ilott’s estranged mother, Mrs Jackson, died in 2004. Her Will provided for the majority of her estate to go three charities – The Blue Cross Animal Welfare Charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  The Estate itself was valued at £486,000.
The will made no provision for Mrs Ilott , Mrs Jackson’s only child.  At earlier hearings the Court had heard that mother and daughter had become estranged many years before and their attempts at reconciliation had failed.
Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from her late mother’s estate. In 2007, DJ Million made an award in Mrs Ilott’s favour of £50,000.
Mrs Ilott appealed against the amount of this award and in July 2015, the Court of Appeal allowed Mrs Ilott’s appeal, setting aside DJ Million’s award and substituting its own award of (a) £143,000, to enable Mrs Ilott to purchase her housing association home, (b) the reasonable costs of the purchase, and (c) payments up to a maximum of £20,000 structured in a way that would allow Mrs Ilott to preserve her state benefits.
Following that judgment the charities appealed to the Supreme Court asking for a determination as to
1. Whether the Court of Appeal was wrong to set aside the award made at first instance on the respondent’s claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
2. Whether, in deciding to re-exercise the court’s discretion to make an award under the 1975 Act, the Court of Appeal erred in taking account of the factual position as at the date of the appeal rather than the date of the original hearing.
3. Whether the Court of Appeal erred in its approach to the “maintenance” standard under the 1975 Act.
4. Whether the Court of Appeal was wrong to structure an award under the 1975 Act in a way which allowed the respondent the preserve her entitlement to state benefits.
5. Whether the Court of Appeal erred in its application of the balancing exercise required under the 1975 Act.
Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others was heard on 12 December 2016  by Justices Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Hughes.
There has been much discussion about this case and it’s implications, particularly in relation to provision to be made for adult non-dependant children.  Some commentators have asked whether the outcome in the Court of Appeal would have been the same had Heather Ilott not been reliant upon state benefits.  Would the Court have been less likely to make provision if she had been in employment and supporting herself?
Questions were also raised about whether the position would have been viewed differently if Heather Ilott had wished to be estranged from her mother, her evidence being that it was her mother’s decision and not hers.
The outcome will be awaited with interest by more than just the charities involved as we see the next instalment in this interesting case.