Testamentary Freedom

Testamentary Freedom

In English law you are free in your Will to leave your assets to whomsoever you like subject to providing for those who are dependent on you, normally your partner and minor children. However this principle has been challenged in court. The case known as Ilott vs Mitson that began in 2007 has recently been adjudicated on by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

Mrs Jackson died leaving her £486,000 estate to the Blue Cross, RSPB and RSPCA charities.  Her daughter, Heather Ilott, from whom she was estranged for 26 years brought a claim that she should be entitled to money from her mother’s estate.

In 2007, a County Court ruled that Ilott should receive £50,000 from her deceased mother’s estate. Mrs Ilott appealed and was eventually awarded £163,000 by the Court of Appeal in 2015. The three charities appealed this decision.

After a decade of litigation, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously this month in favour of the three charities, stating that the County Court judge had made the correct decision on the grounds of testamentary freedom in 2007.  It thereby restored his original order awarding Mrs Ilott £50,000.

This case is an important victory for the Charities as it would otherwise have set a precedent for them since they benefit hugely from charitable legacies in Wills.

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