Can you disinherit your children?
Until recently the view was yes. The Inheritance (provision for family and dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Act) was interpreted as not allowing adult non-dependant children to make a claim against your estate other than in exceptional circumstances. The case of Ilot v Mitson 2011 (finally resolved in 2014) changed that. Mrs Mitson didn’t get on with daughter Heather or more to the point she didn’t like Mr Ilot the man she married and had five children with. The Mitson’s were not a close family, daughter Heather leaving home in the middle of the night when she was 17.
So when Mrs Mitson died 26 years later, having little contact with her daughter in the interim, she felt justified in having left her estate of £486,000 to various animal charities.
S.1 of the Act states that where a person dies domiciled in England and Wales (our emphasis) any child of their’s can make a claim against the deceased’s estate on the grounds it doesn’t make reasonable financial provision for them. The deceased has to be domiciled in England and Wales at death. The law relating to domicile is complex and the subject for a separate article. If you father was born outside England and Wales and you maintain close links with that country you may be able to claim a different domicile and avoid the Act.
‘Reasonable financial provision’ has been defined as such sum as is required to meet the daily living costs at the standard of living appropriate to the claimant. So a child living in Mayfair is likely to get more than one in Doncaster.
As with many cases, this one was the subject of countless appeals (at much cost) and was only concluded this year. Heather Ilot received £50,000, which is a little more than 10% of the estate.
The court has to look at a number of factors, the size of the estate, the competing financial needs and resources of claimants, the financial obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards an claimant, any physical or mental disability and any other matter including conduct which may be relevant. There is some debate over how relevant conduct should be unless it is very grave. A major point in this case was the whole estate had been left to charity and Heather lived on state benefit.
While the case is a land mark its important not to lose sight of the result. However if you are planning to disinherit a child it is important to take proper legal advice.