There has been an increase of 11.5% in the number of claims made by disinherited adult children seeking to challenge their deceased parent’s decision. The increase is suspected to have been caused by the established case of Ilott v Mitson where the daughter made a successful claim against her mother’s estate after she left everything to charity.
However, a recent case heard at the Central London County Court has the potential to halt this trend.
Michael Ames died in 2013 leaving his entire estate, valued at approximately £700,000, to his second wife. Mr Ames’ daughter from his first marriage has two teenage children, is financially dependant on her long-term cohabitant and is unemployed. She issued a claim against her late father’s estate for ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
The Judge dismissed the daughter’s claim on the basis that the deceased’s estate was not ‘significant’ enough to support both the wife and the daughter. Further, the widow was ‘elderly’ and ill. The Judge contrasted the widow’s position with the daughters, whose unemployment he described as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
It is easy to note the differences between the Ames case and Ilott v Mitson. The needs of Mrs Ames are clearly very different to a charity. The Judge in the Ames case felt that Mrs Ames could not be expected to sell or mortgage her home, which would be the only way to realise funds to provide for the daughter.
Whilst this case goes some way to dampen down the sensationalist claims following Ilott v Mitson that testamentary freedom is a thing of the past, it does not clear up all of the grey areas. There are many issues that will arise when an individual wishes to write a will that does not provide for an adult child. Sensible consideration of the risks and any alternative options available can go a long way to minimising the chance of expensive litigation following your death, or avoid it altogether.
Please contact me on [email protected] or 0800 061 4494 to find out how I can best help you protect your family and your assets.