A surprising Court of Appeal decision that a daughter was a ‘dependant’ of her estranged mother and thus entitled to benefit from her estate has now been overturned by the Supreme Court.
Heather Ilott had been deliberately excluded from the will of her mother, Melita Jackson. Mother and daughter had become estranged after Ms Ilott left home at the age of 17 to live with a man of whom Mrs Jackson disapproved. Mrs Jackson’s will left her entire estate to three animal charities with which she had no particular connection.
Ms Ilott brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 after her mother’s death. The Act allows a person who has been dependent on someone who has died without including them in their will to make a claim against the estate for ‘reasonable provision’ to be made for them in order to avoid their becoming destitute. Ms Ilott was awarded £50,000 at her first court appearance, a decision that was upheld by the High Court in 2014.
In 2015, however, the Court of Appeal concurred with Ms Ilott’s claim that the Act applied to her and awarded her a total of £163,000, even though she had had no contact with her mother, let alone a relationship involving financial dependency, for years. Part of the reasoning behind the decision was that the original award would result in Ms Ilott losing means-tested benefits on which she relied, so would not leave her significantly better off.
The charities appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now reinstated the original award of £50,000.