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Expert comment on today's Supreme Court ruling

View profile for Stephen Lawson
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Stephen Lawson, Head of Litigation, FDR Law comments on today’s ruling (15th March 2017) whereby the Supreme Court overturned the six-figure award to a woman left out of her estranged mother's will, after three charities appealed the decision. Mrs Ilott was originally awarded £50,000 by a district judge in 2007. This sum was increased to £163,000 by the appeal court in 2015. But after the ruling, she will now receive only the original £50,000.

The case of Ilott v Mitson is the first time a claim under an Inheritance Act has reached the Supreme Court. It illustrates a balancing act between the testamentary wishes made under a will and the statutory rights and financial needs of an applicant.

Says Stephen Lawson: “Today’s judgment is likely to cast significant light on the concept of “testamentary freedom” and balance the freedom of a person making a Will to choose their own beneficiaries against the rights of an adult child to challenge those wishes to seek reasonable provision. As such, it is bound to have long lasting ramifications for many potential 1975 Act claimants in the years to come.”

“While people do not always give sufficient thought to putting their affairs in order, this case highlights just how vital it is to do so. Had Mrs Mitson made no will, Mrs Ilott could have walked away with her entire estate. As it was, she got a small proportion while the animal charities retained the rest, as per her mother’s wishes.”

Stephen Lawson is a specialist litigator with more than 30 years’ experience who undertakes traditional “Chancery” work including Inheritance and Trust disputes, Professional Negligence claims, disputes about land and Court of Protection work.

Stephen Lawson has been asked by STEP to speak on this case at their spring conferences because of his expertise in this area