Ilot ruling suggests greater need for probate solicitors

Questions are being raised as to whether the legal profession is ready for a potential surge in inheritance claims following recent landmark decision of Ilot v Mitson, as previously reported by Today’s Wills & Probate.

In a recent milestone decision for wills and probate case law, the Court of Appeal awarded Heather Ilot £486,000 from her late mother’s estate, despite being intentionally left out of the will.

Although a parent omitting children from their will isn’t entirely unheard of in UK law, this is a significant case demonstrating the power of the Inheritance Act 1975. It shows how wills can be successfully disputed, and suggests a rise in the number of claims that may be made on the back of this case.

With growing public awareness of such cases, it is expected that more individuals with probate queries and disagreements will be seeking advice from legal professionals as a result. This trend has already been noted, predominantly in London areas.

Jessica Costello, partner at Staffordshire-based firm, Knights has picked up on this movement, noting that the impact of the recent decision will affect inheritance claims as a direct result.

She has stated that the changes to contesting wills now lies in the importance of ‘additional and tangible detail on the reasons for donating certain assets to relatives, friends or neighbours’. She recommends those considering contesting a will to seek advice a soon as possible from a qualified legal professional, so as not to miss the strict deadlines that surround claiming against an estate.

Wills and probate solicitors have a wide range of issues to deal with, varying from drafting simple wills to dealing with large estate disputes. With the economy on the mend and the property market rebounding, individuals will be putting increased importance on creating, updating and disputing wills.

Of course the worry is that the legal industry may not be prepared for the floodgates to open with regard to inheritance claims. Another concern is that growth in this area of law may destabilise testamentary choice for those creating a will, with some questioning how certain our final wishes truly are.

For the legal industry, the media attention given to the recent inheritance claim success has highlighted the requirement for a rise in wills and probate lawyers nationwide. For the public, cases such as the Ilot judgement demonstrate the significance of seeking expert advice in these complicated areas.

Do you believe future estate disputes will lead to similar decisions in the courts? Have you seen an increase in queries of this nature? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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