Welcome to the first monthly round-up of high profile legal cases regarding contentious trusts and probate. This month, Katherine Pymont summarises:

  • The case that caused a media frenzy: Illot v Mitson - The Court of Appeal awards disinherited daughter £163,000 under Inheritance (Provision for  Family and Dependants Act) 1975.
  • Sharp v Hutchins - The High Court upheld an elderly bachelor's will which left £472,000 to a local builder he befriended.
  • King v The Chiltern Dog Rescue - The Court of Appeal provided clarification of the law relating to donatio mortis causa (DMC).

Illot v Mitson[2015] EWCA Civ 797  (Illot)

Media storm as Court of Appeal awards disinherited daughter £163,000 under Inheritance (Provision for  Family and Dependants Act) 1975. Claims by adult children may increase in the short term but Ilott has by no means opened the floodgates. Claims under the 1975 Act are fact specific and would be beneficiaries should be alert to the balancing exercise conducted by the court with regards the financial needs of all the beneficiaries. In Illot the only competing beneficiaries were charities with no individual discernible needs. Read more on inheritance claims by children.

Ryan Mowat was interviewed on the outcome of this case by Nick Ferrari on LBC radio and was quoted in The Solicitors Journal, The Telegraph, The Times, thisismoney.co.uk and Wealthbriefing.com.

Sharp v Hutchins [2015] EWCH 1240 (Ch) (Sharp)

The High Court upholds the will of an elderly bachelor who left his entire £472,000 estate to a builder he befriended. The will was challenged by the beneficiaries of an earlier will on the grounds of lack of want and knowledge and approval. The judge ruled that the single stage test set out in Gill v Woodall [2010] - the testator understood the terms and effect of the will when signed - should be cross checked by applying the two stage test adopted n Barry v Butlin [1838] namely whether there were sufficient facts to excite the suspicion of the court and if so whether that suspicion was diminished by those propounding the will. Read more about this case

Matthew Duncan commented on this case in The Law Society Private Client Section.

King v The Chiltern Dog Rescue 2015 (King)

The Court of Appeal provides clarification of the law relating to donatio mortis causa (DMC). A successful DMC gift is made during the lifetime of the donor in contemplation of the donors impending death, must be conditional on death (until death it can be revoked) and there must be a parting of dominion over the subject matter of the gift (Sen v Headley [1991]). Jackson LJ said that the donor must be contemplating death in the near future for a specific reason. The court emphasised that the law of DMC must be kept within its proper bounds. Read the judgment.