Following an eight-year court battle, a woman has been awarded £164,000 from her estranged mother’s estate at the Court of Appeal, despite it being against wishes clearly stated in her will.
Melita Jackson’s will made it clear that she wished to leave her £500,000 estate to animal charities when she died in 2004, without leaving anything to Heather Ilott, her only daughter.
Before her death, Mrs Jackson stated, in a letter written to her lawyers, that she did not want her daughter to receive any of her wealth.
She said: “I can see no reason why my daughter should benefit in any way from my estate.
“I have made it clear to my daughter … that she can expect no inheritance from me when I die.”
However, following a lengthy legal battle, it has finally been decided at the Court of Appeal that Mrs Ilott would face a life of poverty if she did not receive a part of the estate, mainly due to the fact that she was on benefits.
Lady Justice Arden therefore awarded Mrs Ilott £164,000 so she could buy her housing association home and have £20,000 to spend as she wished, on the grounds that her mother had not left “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
The ruling was worded so that Mrs Ilott would not lose any of her state benefits.
One of the main reasons behind the ruling is said to be the fact that Mrs Jackson had almost no involvement with the charities she left her money to.
The decision undermines people’s right to leave their money and assets to any party of their choosing, which means that wills need to be drawn up with explanations included as to why a bequest is being left to a particular party (including individuals and organisations).
Adult children that have been disinherited by their parents will also find it easier to challenge their wills, and gain an amount of any estate.
Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, said: “This ruling is saying that while you can still disinherit your children, you are going to have to explain why and show connections with those you are leaving the money to.
“It is also very important because it seems to be making it easier for adult children to claim for reasonable financial provision in wills and has made the gap wider for them to do that.”