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Posted 2 February 2017
by Martin Laver

Charity Legacy Case Update



Inheritance Act claims can interfere with legacies to charities and it is not always obvious whether a charity should resist a claim or not. 

Charities have an unenviable task because they are required under trust law to do all they can to maximise trust income and assets whilst at the same time the publicity of these cases can be damaging.

Charities who receive legacies might be familiar with the case of Ilott –v- Mitson in which 3 charities have been locked in litigation with Mrs Ilott for some years.   The case has been to the Court of Appeal and has now reached the Supreme Court, the highest Court in England and Wales.

Mrs Ilott was the estranged daughter of Mrs Jackson who died in 2004.  Mrs Jackson elected not to provide for Mrs Ilott in her will (making it clear why) and the charities received a share of the estate valued at around £480,000.  Mrs Ilott brought a claim under the Inheritance Act seeking reasonable financial provision for her maintenance.

The case is interesting (to lawyers and charity legacy managers anyway) for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the Claimant is an adult and few adult cases ever get reported.  Secondly, Mrs Ilott lived frugally and was in receipt of state benefits and there was a question about what else Mrs Ilott needed for her maintenance.  Thirdly because of the way the Court of Appeal structured their award to Mrs Ilott to ensure that she could continue to receive her benefits as well.  Finally, very few Inheritance Act cases ever reach the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court heard the appeal last month and you can click here to watch the hearing (Silk, Suits and Rumpole of the Bailey this is not!).  The judgment is expected soon and in it we expect the Supreme Court to give some very clear and helpful pointers about bringing adult claims under the Inheritance Act.  This will help us advise charities who are met with these claims.

We will put together a briefing note as soon as the judgment is in.  Watch this space.

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About the author

Martin Laver

Partner

Partner in the commercial litigation team specialising in disputed trusts and Wills