After Ilott

[Apologies – not Legal History. Having a bit of a succession enthusiasm at the moment!]

Not surprising to see press attention on wills, families and charities, following Ilott. The Guardian has a piece about a family aggrieved at the fact that their relative’s will left a large amount of money to a private school:

But the explanation of the Ilott case here is not quite right – Heather Ilott was not awarded money ‘ on the grounds that her mother had acted in an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” way towards her’, but because she qualified under the Inheritance Act for reasonable financial provision. Not the same thing (there is a better explanation lower down in this rather rushed looking article). Also, it’s rather simplistic to say (as anonymous ‘solicitors’ are made to do here) that Ilott in the Supreme Court straightforwardly upholds testamentary freedom. Clearly not the case when the testator did not want her daughter to get anything, and she was awarded £50,000.

There are much more interesting questions which should arise from the juxtaposition of Ilott and this case (will of Sybil Jenazian), in particular whether charity fundraising techniques could possibly amount to undue influence (the private school ran active fundraising campaigns, predictably targeting particular people connected with it: contrast the less specific connection between Melita Jackson and the animal charities in Ilott). There is also the point that this is about cousins  as opposed to mother-only daughter, as in Ilott, so generally a much harder argument for reasonable financial provision.


From a narrative point of view, the story here does not really match Ilott very closely: it could be summarised as ‘possibly inappropriate pressure on possibly vulnerable testator’ as opposed to the ‘spiteful charity’ trope seen in Ilott.  There is, however, a definite similarity in terms of the huge amount of ill-feeling generated by inheritance and disinheritance.