Website Cookie Policy

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. If you continue, we’ll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website.
See our cookie policy for more information.

Practice Areas

More Information

Leeds: 0113 244 6100

Sheffield: 0114 267 5588


Court rules against a challenge to inheritance in the Ilott case

March 2017

The Supreme Court has today handed down their judgment in the case Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others (previous incarnations known as Ilott v Mitson)


This case is well known and concerned a mother and daughter who had been estranged for many years.  When the mother died she left her estate worth almost £500,000 to three charities with which she had no prior connection.

The daughter, who was living on benefits, successfully applied for "reasonable financial provision" from her mother's estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 ("the 1975 Act").  She was awarded £50,000 and appealed on the basis that the award was too low and deprived her of means tested benefits.  The Court of Appeal awarded her over £160,000.  The charities challenged the increase and today the original award of £50,000 was reinstated by the Supreme Court on the basis that the 1975 Act limits awards to "maintenance", rather than providing all of the applicant's reasonable needs.

Comment and guidance

We are fairly comfortable in this country with our concept of testamentary freedom: a principle in English law that we can choose to whom our estate should pass when we die.  This is, however, subject to the 1975 Act which allows certain categories of disappointed parties to claim "reasonable financial provision" if not made under the Will or intestacy.  These categories include "a child of the deceased", although prior to the Ilott case this was thought to usually exclude claims by adult children not financially dependent on the deceased.

Despite today's judgment, the Ilott case still extends the application of the 1975 Act and arguably waters down the principle of testamentary freedom. 

It is hoped that this will be limited to the facts of this particular case i.e. the daughter is of very low means and the provisions of the Will were seemingly capricious and spiteful, benefiting charities with which the deceased had no connection or history of giving.

However, if you are concerned about a potential claim against your estate by a disappointed party following your death, you still need to seek advice and there are no guarantees.  Ilott has, despite today's ruling, created more uncertainty in this area and potentially increased the likelihood of claims in future. The legal fees in this case are vast and such litigation is best avoided if possible.

Further reading

Case report: Ilott (Respondent) v The Blue Cross and others (Appellants) [2017] UKSC 17

The Supreme Court website - Case Details


If you or your clients would like to discuss this article please contact Katherine Wainman (0113 244 6100).

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Private Client team on Twitter here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors



Katherine Wainman View Biography

Katherine Wainman


The Yorkshire Family Business Bulletin

Thomas Wainman considers 'employee ownership' as an option for family businesses plus the usual mix of news, insights and perspectives.

Click here to view more

Proposed changes to the law on Wills and how they may affect you

We summarise proposed changes to the law on Wills (designed to encourage more people to make Wills) and the implications for lawyers and clients.

Click here to view more

Sources of finance for community-led housing

We have compiled a list of grants, loans and other finance options for community-led housing and co-housing groups.

Click here to view more

Schools Breakfast Club - 19th September

Date: 19 Sep 2017

Venue: Wrigleys Solicitors, 19 Cookridge Street, Leeds, LS2 3AG

Speaker: Lisa Armstrong, Chartered Educational Psychologist at Evolution Psychology Ltd

Further information

Breakfast Briefing - 17 October

Date: 17 Oct 2017

Venue: Radisson Blu, Leeds

Speaker: Dr John McMullen, Partner at Wrigleys Solicitors

Further information

Annual Charity Governance Seminar 2017

Date: 19 Oct 2017

Venue: Hilton City Leeds

Speaker: Sarah Atkinson , Julia Unwin CBE

Further information

Mailing list

Receive the latest news, events and updates from Wrigleys:

Follow Wrigleys: