Can an adult child be disinherited? The Supreme Court has final say.
Last year, in a previous newsletter, I reported on the Court of Appeal decision in Ilott v Mitson in a case involving dispute resolution. On 15th March 2017, the Supreme Court in an appeal before it from the Court of Appeal allowed the charities appeal on the question of reasonable provision for an estranged adult child.
To recap on the facts briefly, the case concerned an estranged adult daughter, Mrs Ilott, who had been disinherited in favour of charities by her mother. In the decision of the District Judge the daughter received an award of £50,000 under the Inheritance (Provision of Family and Dependents) Act. The daughter appealed as the award was too low and she could no longer claim benefits.
The Court of Appeal awarded Mrs Ilott £143,000 to buy the house she lived in and an option to receive a further £20,000 in one or more instalments. The charities appealed and on 15th March 2017 the Supreme Court handed down its decision allowing the charities to appeal and reinstating the award of £50,000 made by the District Judge.
In this case of a dispute resolution, the main thrust of the Supreme Court’s decision is that the District Judge had been entitled to take a broad-brush approach. The Supreme Court emphasised that it was important to limit awards to allow adult children maintenance and that in making reasonable provision for maintenance, one does not need to provide everything that the applicant needs and that an applicant’s need should not necessarily be the measure of an award under the Act.
In future, if disputes cannot be resolved by mediation, the Courts should not fix a hypothetical standard of provision and then adjust it. A single assessment required by the Judge in this calculation might be coloured by any of the factors under section 3 of the Act, such as the financial resources and needs of the Applicant and comparing that to the financial resources and needs of any other beneficiary.
One issue that could carry weight was estrangement and in this case the circumstances of the relationship between Mrs Ilott and her late mother were relevant.
Accordingly, whilst the case gives very important guidance as to how to assess claims under the Act at the end of the day the Judge will need to make an assessment on a broad-brush approach which does make decisions quite unpredictable in this area of law.
This is one area of dispute resolution that went to court. Another area for people with similar cases that need resolving is mediation. If you have a problem that needs resolving please get in touch. Mediation or a court case – whichever is best for your particular circumstances – we will give you the best advice on the best direction. Whichever it is I can help. Just follow this link >