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What's New? > Can you disinherit a Child?

Can you disinherit a Child?

Published: 27th June 2011

No provision does not constitute reasonable provision.

The Court of Appeal case of Ilott-v-Mitson & ors 2011 heard on 8th February 2011 casts doubt on your freedom to choose who will inherit your estate if you choose to leave a child nothing.

Melita Jackson died 10th July 2004 leaving her net residuary estate of 486,000 to charity and a letter explaining why she had left nothing to her estranged and only 46 year old daughter Heather Ilott (the Claimant) who left home at 17 years to marry, have 5 children and who existed on benefits at the time of her mother's death.

Section 1 (3) of the Inheritance (Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows a child to claim for reasonable financial provision based on the criteria set out in Section 3. The criteria (amongst other things) looks at the size and nature of the deceased's estate, the Claimants present and future financial needs,  her health and any obligations and responsibilities  assumed by the deceased towards her as well as the position of other claimants and/or beneficiaries.

Despite the Claimants 26 year estrangement from her mother she received 50,000. The decision is generally based on the deceased's unreasonable  rejection of her daughter due to her disapproval of her marriage and lifestyle, the fact the Claimant had unsuccessfully instigated three reconciliations with her mother and that the deceased throughout her life had not actively supported the charities inheriting her estate.

Each case is dependent on its facts and consequently how the Section  3 criteria is applied. It is clear that a disgruntled child cannot be prevented from inheriting money not left to them in every case.

You may therefore consider leaving a token to the child and to choose other beneficiaries known to you or with whom you have an affiliation. Leaving a letter to explain your decisions remains important which not only includes reasons for the exclusion of a child but positive reasons for the inclusion of others.  A Trust arrangement may mitigate against potential court applications but cannot be guaranteed. Your conduct towards your child will however be relevant on any decision made.

Whether either party will appeal against the decision is yet to be seen.  For full details on this specific case see http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/346.html

If you require further information on the above or any other Wills & Probate, please contact a member of our Wills & Probate team on 01553 660033.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.