The Court of Appeal has agreed to give a daughter who challenged her late mother’s Will a share in the mothers estate: which left £486,000.00 to animal charities and nothing to the daughter.
Heather Ilott lost favour fell out with her mother Melita Jackson after eloping with her lover at the age of 17 – 33 years earlier. Mrs Jackson die aged 70 in 2004. Her 2002 Will left everything between the Blue Cross Animal Welfare Charity, RSPCA, and the RSPB. Quite rightly, she was adviser to leave a letter to explain that she had left her only daughter nothing because she had walked out of her home all those years before.
Heather has five children and lives largely on benefits in a Housing Association home. She claimed against her mother’s Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act of 1975. This Act allows those who were dependant on the person whose estate it was to claim reasonable financial provision from the estate if they can demonstrate they have not been properly provided for by the Will or intestacy (no Will).
Heather was given £50,000 by the Court in 2007. She appealed hoping to obtain more money and the charities – the defendants in the case – appealed against the decision to award her anything at all. The High Court the Judge reversed the decision and she was left with nothing out of her Mrs Jacksons estate.
It has been the past rule that adult children who were no longer financially dependant on parents nor suffering from any disability, would not win in such an Inheritance Act claim.
Judges are not keen to interfere with the rights of individuals to leave their assets to whoever they wish to, so claims by adult children who are not financially dependent have rarely been successful.
But the Court of Appeal has now taken a totally new position. Justice Black and the President of the Family Division Sir Nicholas Wall and Lady Justice Arden agreed that had been “unreasonable of Mrs Jackson to cut her daughter out of her Will in favour of charities to which she had no prior connection”.
This rather surprising ruling means that Heather Ilott can ask the High Court for a larger share of her mother’s assets. Her barrister said that her mothers decision to leave her daughter nothing was “out of spite” and not because she was especially keen to help the charities involved in the case.
The charities said Mrs Ilott had managed to survive without her mothers support completely independently for over 25 years and should not now suddenly have a right expect things to change now her mother had died.
This surprising case invites legal challenges from any disappointed relative, who for any reason, has been left out of a Will”.
The charities may yet take the case to the Supreme Court – given the ramifications to their income, it is highly likely that that they will appeal.
Stephen Pett of www.APWW.co.uk says ” This case turns accepted practice on its head, and means that the only safe way to disinherit anyone is more complex and we expect substantially increased demand for our Home Protection Plan which does not come under the 1975 Act.”