The Court of Appeal has now delivered judgment in the case of Ilott –v- Mitson – which concerns a dispute over a Will. A mother left her entire estate to the RSPCA and several other charities excluding her daughter – citing that over 30 years ago the daughter eloped with a boyfriend. The Court ultimately awarded £164,000 to the now adult daughter – who is of limited financial means.
In our view this is not tremendously ground breaking – the statute permitting relatives and dependants to challenge a Will has been in force since 1975.
Perhaps the proper lessons to draw are:-
(i) Wills are often the last message the deceased gives to their family. Hurtful and unexpected messages give rise to protracted (in this case over 10 years) and costly litigation. We suspect that a huge proportion of this Estate has been wasted in legal fees.
(ii) The preparation of a Will should not comprise providing instructions to your lawyer expecting them merely to draft this into a legally binding Will. The lawyers task (especially in these days of complex families) should extend to advising you as to all aspects of your estate including exposure to tax and the risks of inheritance claims.
It makes sense to instruct Solicitors with experience of Will preparation and handling disputed estates.