Latimer Hinks Solicitors has welcomed a landmark Supreme Court ruling, which it says will bring clarity to future inheritance disputes
The Supreme Court made a unanimous ruling to overturn a Court of Appeal decision to award a woman approximately £160,000 from her mother’s will, despite her being disinherited.
The law firm, recent winners of the Northern Law Awards (Private Client Team of the Year) says that the Supreme Court’s decision in the milestone case should provide reassurance to those making a will that their decisions will be respected and their testamentary freedom, the fundamental right to choose how you dispose of your own property, is protected.
When Heather Ilott's mother, Melita Jackson, died in 2004, she left most of her £500,000 estate to animal charities, making a conscious decision to disinherit her daughter. Shortly afterwards, Ms Ilott contested the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, subsequently winning £50,000 from her mother's estate in the High Court. This was later increased to £140,000 by the Court of Appeal, in order to enable her to buy her housing association property, with a further £20,000 payment to be structured to allow her to keep her state benefits. The objection to the Court of Appeal’s decision was brought by the charities to whom Ms Illott’s mother left her estate.
Jennifer Quayle, a senior solicitor at Latimer Hinks, said: “This ruling reaffirms what most people believe; that we have the right to choose who will benefit when we pass away. Mrs Jackson made a conscious decision when she was fully compos mentis, so her decision ought to be respected. This is the first case of its kind to reach the Supreme Court and will set a precedent for other similar cases, so I’m pleased to see the law come down on the side of common sense.
“There were concerns that the UK was beginning to slide towards a European-style forced heirship system, but this ruling is validation that our age-old common law principle of testamentary freedom, which gives individual the power to choose how they dispose of their property, is still paramount.”