Industry NewsWillsLegal principle ‘Testamentary freedom’ – Upheld

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Latest on Illot V Mitson

Illot v Mitson is a much talked about case in the private client legal sector. The facts of the case are frustrating to those who believe in the legal principle of testamentary freedom. Testamentary freedom provides that a testator can bequeath their possessions or effects to who they would like in their Will. This principle has been at the centre of a legal argument since the death of Melita Jackson, a mother who wished to provide no legacy for her estranged daughter Heather Illot.

This case has been deliberated on and has worked its way to the Supreme Court (the highest court in the land) after numerous successful appeals.

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

The Supreme Court’s judgement regarding the Illott v Mitson case has been released today, with the Supreme Court unanimously allowing the charities (Blue Cross and others) appeal.

The Supreme Court held that the District Judge did not make any of the two errors of principle upon which the Court of Appeal relied to justify its re-evaluation of its reward to Mrs Illott. The errors that the District Judge has said to have made were:

“i)  That the award should, in the light of the long estrangement and Mrs Ilott’s independent life and lack of expectation of benefit, be limited, but he had not identified what the award would have been without these factors and thus the reduction attributable to them; and

  1. ii) He had made his award of £50,000 without knowing what the effect of it would be upon the benefits which Mrs Ilott and her family presently received.”

As a result the award to Mrs Illott of £163,000, made up of £143,000 to purchase her housing association property and a further £20,000 structured so as not to affect her benefit entitlement has been set aside. The Supreme Court have ruled that she will now only receive the £50,000 originally awarded by the District Judge.

Details of the full judgement can be found by following the below link:

https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0203-judgment.pdf

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