On 15 March 2017, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous judgment in the long-running case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and others – a claim by the estranged daughter to a share of her mother’s estate.

The ruling provides clarity to the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependants) Act 1975.

The Claimant was originally left nothing in her mother’s will, having essentially been estranged from her throughout her adult life. As a consequence of her original claim, she was awarded the sum of £50,000 but appealed on the basis that this was inadequate for her needs and that the structure of the payment resulted in her losing state benefits.

On appeal a restructured payment of over £140,000 was made which also preserved her benefits. The Supreme Court has however overturned that decision, and restored the first instance award of £50,000.

The Court was at pains to stress that for adult children who are making claims under a Will that disinherits them, they are only allowed to seek a sum sufficient for their “maintenance”.

The Court also acknowledged that there is considerable tension between the testator’s having a free choice and the ability for adult children to challenge their decision where it genuinely prejudices them. The ruling does however confirm that the current law is not an encouragement for dissatisfied adult children to seek to take advantage.

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