A victory for will makers

17th March 2017

A victory for will makers

Experts at leading law firm Higgs & Sons believe this week’s ruling on a long running case concerning the terms of a will, should reassure those who may have concerns about their wishes being followed after they die.

The Supreme Court yesterday passed down judgment in the case of Illott v Mitson, a matter which has been before the courts (in various legal proceedings) for the last 10 years.

Mrs Jackson left most of her estate totalling almost £500,000 to three charities: the Blue Cross, the RSPCA and the RSPB. She left nothing to her estranged daughter, Heather Illott.

In 2007 Mrs Ilott contested her mother's will through the courts. She was initially awarded £50,000, which was increased on appeal to £160,000. However in a case that has been ongoing since Mrs Jackson’s death in 2004, the three charities subsequently challenged this increase, arguing that people should be free to choose their beneficiaries. The Supreme Court has now agreed that Mrs Illot should receive only the original award of £50,000.

Mrs Ilott was an only child who was rejected by her mother after she left home in 1978 aged 17 to live with her boyfriend, Nicholas Ilott, whom she later married.

She and her mother never reconciled their differences and before she died in 2004, Mrs Jackson had instructed the executors of her will to fight any claim Mrs Ilott might make regarding the terms of her will after her death.

Peter Gosling, a Partner in Higgs & Sons Private Client department believes the case is a victory for those concerned about the terms of their wills being followed after they die.

“Certain family members and dependants have for many years been able to make claims against an estate where they have not been reasonably provided for in the will of a deceased person. Each case is different, but the earlier awards in this high profile case have unfortunately led some people to believe that the courts will simply ride roughshod over the wishes of the person who has passed away. This decision confirms that this is not the case.” 

Beth King-Smith an expert in contentious probate at the firm continues: “This case brings welcome reassurance to will makers in that - except in specific and limited circumstances - they are free to benefit whomever they wish in their will and that those final wishes will be respected by the courts. Will makers can be confident that having an up-to-date and professionally written will means their wishes will be honoured.”

Kirsty McEwen, a Partner and Head of Higgs’ Charity and Not-For-Profit team says the case will also be welcomed by the UK’s charitable sector.

“Many charities will welcome this ruling as it provides definition and clarity in this often difficult area of law. Thousands of UK charities depend on generous gifts given through wills and knowing that the wishes of individuals who want to support their chosen charity in this way will be respected, will provide them with a little more reassurance about what is a vital source of funding.”

Higgs & Sons can provide advice and support on all aspects of wills and issues around estates. Please contact:

To discuss making a will - Peter Gosling 01384 327215

For matters involving disputed wills - Beth King-Smith 01384 327221

For information on charities and the not-for-profit sector – Kirsty McEwen 01384 327322


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