In an eagerly awaiting ruling, the Supreme Court has overturned a Court of Appeal decision in favour of an adult daughter who had been excluded from her mother’s will in favour of three charities.

The case centred on whether Heather Illott, who had been disinherited by her mother in favour of three animal charities, should in fact be entitled to ‘reasonable financial provision’ from her mother’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and dependants) Act 1975.

Illott initially challenged the will and was awarded £50,000 by the High Court. Both parties then appealed to the Court of Appeal and this was increased to £143,000. However, the ruling from the Supreme Court strikes out the Court of Appeal ruling and restores the original order handed down by a District Judge at the High Court.

Of interest to charities and those wishing to disinherit their adult children, many will view the ruling as supportive of testamentary freedom. However, Lady Hale, in her judgement, pointing out that the ‘unsatisfactory state of the present law’ gives no guidance as to the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether an adult child is deserving of reasonable maintenance.

As a result of this ruling, adult children will still be able to apply to the court where their parent’s will fails to make reasonable financial provision for them. Therefore, anyone considering excluding their children from their will should always take expert legal advice on the drafting of their will.