Leading London law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett is warning people that the Court of Appeal’s decision to grant part of a mother’s estate to her disinherited daughter could set a precedent for future cases.
Heather Ilott has been awarded £164,000 from the estate of her deceased mother Melita Jackson by the Court of Appeal, going against her mother’s wishes to leave all of her estate to three animal charities.
The court heard that Mrs Ilott had eloped at a young age with her boyfriend and that as a result her mother had written her out of her Will in 2002, leaving a letter to explain why she had disinherited her only daughter.
Instead of going to her daughter, Mrs Jackson’s £486,000 estate was left to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross charities following her death aged 70 in 2004.
In 2007 Mrs Ilott challenged the Will and won the right to an inheritance of £50,000, after a district judge concluded she had been “unreasonably” excluded. This ruling was supported by Mrs Justice Parker during a separate hearing in March 2014, who found that the previous decision to award £50,000 was appropriate.
However, this week during the latest hearing at the Court of Appeal Lady Justice Arden said Mrs Ilott’s mother had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” and ruled she should receive a greater proportion of the estate totalling £164,000 in order to meet her basic human needs.
Natalie Payne, Private Client solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, said: “The Court of Appeal’s landmark ruling in Ilott v Mitson has brought into further question whether freedom to leave your estate to whomever you chose still exists in England and Wales.
“Can we still be malevolent or unconventional in deciding who should benefit from our estates? We will have to wait for further guidance before we answer this question but this case highlights how far our courts are willing to intervene and to change a testators wishes.
“Although there are many questions arising from this decision, a notable grey area is how influential a clear explanation for the reasoning behind the choice of beneficiaries would have been to the courts as this was missing. This highlights the importance to keep detailed notes and the reasons behind the beneficiaries chosen, especially, if there is any deviance from the social norm.”
She added that far from negating the need to have a Will, this decisions shows, more than ever, the importance of seeking professional advice.
“At Mackrell Turner Garrett our wealth of experience in Wills drafting and contested estate administrations, makes us ideally placed to offer you the requisite expertise and guidance to put your affairs in order,” added Natalie.
If you would like to know more about Mackrell Turner Garrett’s Wills and Probate services, please call 020 7240 0521.
Tel: 00 44 (0) 207 240 0521