• 27 MAR 17
    Do I have the right to choose who benefits from my estate?

    Do I have the right to choose who benefits from my estate?

    A landmark legal case has reaffirmed the right for people to choose who benefits from their estate when they die.

    Holly Gethin explores the case and explains what it means for those with a will.

    The case

    The case surrounds Melita Jackson and her estranged daughter Heather Ilott, who had a difficult relationship dating back to 1978.

    When Mrs Jackson died in 2004, she left her estate totalling £486,000 to The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSBP) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Mrs Jackson left no provision for her daughter, who is a mother of five, lives on state benefits and has no pension.

    Mrs Ilott challenged the will, stating that she had not been reasonably provided for by her mother under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

    She was originally awarded reasonable financial provision of £50,000, but on appeal was handed £163,000 to buy the housing association property she lived in plus £20,000 for additional income.

    The Supreme Court has now decided the initial sum of £50,000 should stand, reaffirming the principle that you should be free to choose who will benefit from your estate when you die.

    Is my will still legally binding?

    The contentious case throws weight behind the legal obligation of courts up uphold wills, despite the Inheritance Act 1975.

    The decision means the act should not be used by adult children who dispute a will simply because they view their parent’s wishes to be unfair, confirming that wills are legally binding and that people are free to choose their beneficiaries.

    For more information on wills and estate planning, contact Holly Gethin on 0161 761 4611 or email her at holly.gethin@whnsolicitors.co.uk