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Helen Ilott, inherits money her mother said she shouldn't have

(52 Posts)
YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 08:27:28

With all the lawyers around MN, any of them care to explain the logic of the ruling that was all over the news yesterday?
Last night talking heads said (roughly) that HI won because her mother hadn't made a proper statement about supporting the charities named, only made statements about disliking Helen. That seems fuzzy to me, though, I mean, since when do wills need to justify the logic of who gets your estate?

I suppose lesson is to give it all away before you die, if feeling spiteful towards obvious heirs.

throckenholt Wed 29-Jul-15 11:21:08

bump. Would also be interested in the opinions of the local lawyers.

I would have thought (with no legal training whatsoever) that the charities concerned would want to dispute that ruling.

enderwoman Wed 29-Jul-15 11:24:21

I thought the will was overturned because a substantial part of the mother's will was a result of inheriting after her father died and her father would have have wanted some money to go to the daughter.

throckenholt Wed 29-Jul-15 11:33:44

ah - that kind of makes sense. But still - if the father wanted to make sure it went to his daughter, then he should have written his will appropriately.

mynewpassion Wed 29-Jul-15 12:53:04

Maybe he didn't expect to die, iirc in a work accident, before his daughter was born.

prh47bridge Wed 29-Jul-15 14:02:21

I would have thought (with no legal training whatsoever) that the charities concerned would want to dispute that ruling.

The charities have been involved in the case from the start. They were all represented in the appeal.

The principle that Heather Ilott was entitled to inherit was established several years ago. The basis for that decision was that her mother had unreasonably failed to make any financial provision in her will despite the fact that Mrs Ilott is struggling financially. The view of the courts is that this failure produced an unreasonable result having regard to Mrs Ilott's financial circumstances. So if Mrs Ilott and her family were not struggling financially the courts would not have intervened.

The original hearing in 2007 awarded Mrs Ilott £50,000. The Court of Appeal decided that this amount was calculated incorrectly and replaced that award with the sum needed to purchase the family house from the housing association (£143,000) plus the legal expenses involved in buying the house and a further £20,000 to give some additional income.

The judgement yesterday was purely about the amount that should be awarded. The principle of whether or not Mrs Ilott should be able to claim was established long ago.

To summarise, the original hearing in the Magistrates Court resulted in a decision that Mrs Ilott was entitled to some provision and awarded £50,000. The High Court then overturned the original ruling, deciding that Mrs Ilott was not entitled to anything. This then went to the Court of Appeal in 2011 which decided that Mrs Ilott was entitled to provision and referred the matter back to the High Court to determine the amount. The High Court rejected Mrs Ilott's appeal for an increase. The Court of Appeal has now overruled that decision and increased the award.

To give some idea of the accuracy of press reporting (or lack thereof), I note that the Daily Telegraph says, "one of the three judges, Sir Colin Rimer, said the award should be limited and that it was “reasonable” for her to attempt to find work over the next few years". In fact Sir Colin Rimer's total contribution to the judgement was just three words - "I also agree". The comment quoted by the Telegraph was actually in an extract from the judgement in the Magistrates Court that was included as an annex to this judgement.

throckenholt Wed 29-Jul-15 14:36:36

So it has been going on for more than 7 years ?! Is there anything left after that amount of legal to-ing and fro-ing ?!

So - does that mean that if the "child" (albeit likely to be an adult) is struggling financially (does the reason why matter ?) then they have a claim on their parent's estate, regardless of what the will states, unless the will gives a good reason why they want to leave it all to the local cats' home ?

<I know it is different in Scotland>

JaneAustinAllegro Wed 29-Jul-15 14:45:34

it's been going back and forth because it's a massively important precedent for the charities in question, particularly the RSPCA. They take a substantial part of their funding from bequests and it's important to them to have clear law and therefore they always fight to the final judgement rather than settle (which they could have done long ago). Bear that in mind if you send a monthly DDebit to them - it may be funding litigation!

babybarrister Wed 29-Jul-15 15:42:00

Charities are highly litigious and known for playing very hard ball in disputes about wills

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 17:48:43

I wondered how much was left, too, after 7 yrs of legal battles.

prh47bridge Wed 29-Jul-15 18:32:07

Is there anything left after that amount of legal to-ing and fro-ing

The judgement mentions that the estate is worth roughly the same today as it was in 2007.

The executors were named as respondents but have played little part in proceedings. I don't know what happened in the initial hearing but in the first appeal to the High Court in 2009 they shared legal representation with the three charities involved. In all subsequent hearings they have not been represented at all. The estate's legal costs have therefore been low.

does that mean...

It means that if the child is struggling financially the courts may hold that it is unreasonable for the parent to fail to provide for them in their will. Whether or not the parent gives reasons for their failure may be a factor in determining whether or not the exclusion is unreasonable but it is not necessarily decisive. Even if the parent gives their reasons the court may decide that the exclusion is unreasonable.

RitaCrudgington Wed 29-Jul-15 18:44:06

From the charities' perspective it's not a waste of money at all - a hundred thousand pounds spent on this case could have protected millions on the future that could go to protect starving orphans/house neglected cats/cure cancer or whatever.

The UK and the US are rare in allowing parents to disinherit their children in favour of Battersea Dogs Home. This ruling (or rather the original one) is another step towards the rest of the world.

throckenholt Wed 29-Jul-15 18:53:25

I tend to feel that as an adult you have no right to expect income from your parents (unless you are a dependent child through disability). If you are "struggling" financially and your parent chose not to help then that is their decision. Unless maybe if the parents money came to them from a family legacy (in which case they didn't earn it themselves) - maybe then you can claim some kind of moral right to a share of it.

I can see why charities see the value in trying to protect a major income stream.

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 19:35:04

So .. is it right to say that the crux of the judgement was about the portion of her inheritance from her dad, who wasn't able to express a preference to disinherit her. (?)

I kind of hope Helen I's current dire economic straits weren't part of the legal reasons for her to get the money. It's not sitting right with me that that should matter.

don't think I'd want to inherit from such a mean old cow as Helen's mom, though.

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 19:35:59

ps @ RitaC: do you think it's wrong that Uk allows children to be disinherited, then?

Vatersay Wed 29-Jul-15 19:39:21

Sorry just to confirm what Throck said Rita this is not UK law. In Scotland spouses and children have rights to a proportion of the estate.

RitaCrudgington Wed 29-Jul-15 19:41:20

I'm honestly not sure. Having grown up here with all the cultural norms the English/American way (not Scottish or Australian) seems instinctively right, but given that almost everywhere else does it differently and thinks we're unnatural freaks for allowing it I can't say for sure that we're right and they're wrong.

RitaCrudgington Wed 29-Jul-15 19:43:06

Oops, yes Vatersay, just noticed that I accidentally said UK in my first post, which of course is wrong, it's Anglo-Welsh law.

CitrineRaindropPhoenix Wed 29-Jul-15 19:51:32

I think the point of the judgment is that where a parent disinherits a child who is entirely reliant on benefits, they have to have a really good reason to do so and a really strong level of support for the beneficiary.

If Mrs Ilott's mother had volunteered for the RSPCA throughout her life and given them substantial sums while alive, it is unlikely that the challenge would have been so successful.

My understanding is that the public purse shouldn't pick up the cost of family feuds where there is an inheritance, unless there is a very good reason to do so. Helped in this case by the fact that a substantial proportion of the mother's income was inherited from her father who died before she was born.

CitrineRaindropPhoenix Wed 29-Jul-15 19:55:03

The principle of the law is set out in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which can be found here

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 19:55:37

So the reason for the judgement is because it benefits HM-Treasury?

CitrineRaindropPhoenix Wed 29-Jul-15 19:59:49

No. The reason for parliament putting the law in place in 1975 was probably to benefit HM treasury although the reasoning can be checked if necessary through Hansard.

The Court of Appeal applied the statute.

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 20:02:41

(weeps) please don't refer me to Hansard.
Probably expecting too much to ask lawyers to explain a judgement in plain English.

BrookDavis Wed 29-Jul-15 20:05:20

One of the reasons that this went in her favour, and many other's haven't is that the mother was very clear that her reason for disinheriting her daughter was due to her marriage. In this country people have a right to marry whoever they like so it's not a 'valid' reason to disinherit. If she'd had just said she never visited then it may have been thrown out.

But the charities should have settled to avoid this sort of precedent/case law.

YeOldeTrout Wed 29-Jul-15 20:07:54

What is a valid reason to disinherit?
I presume "I like someone better so I want them to have my money" is valid.
Last night I heard that "I've taken care of you enough already so someone else can have it" is valid, too.

What else?

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