Leaving relatives out of a Will has become more difficult as a result of a landmark court judgment
Heather Ilott of Ware has won a decade-long legal dispute over her late mother’s decision to disinherit her, resulting in her receiving one third her mother's estate instead of the charities named in the Will.
Ms Ilott's mother, Melita Jackson died in 2004 having made a Will leaving her £486,000 estate to three animal welfare charities, along with a letter explaining why she had disinherited her estranged daughter.
Ms Ilott subsequently challenged the Will on several occasions, which culminated in yesterday's Court of Appeal ruling, awarding her £168,000 (a third) of her late mother's estate.
Ms Ilott's barrister argued that Ms Jackson had little connection to the animal welfare charities and that most of the wealth in the estate was derived from compensation monies awarded after the untimely death of Ms Ilott's father in an industrial accident, two months before her birth and from assets previously purchased from his wages. The Court found that the terms of the Will failed to make "reasonable provision" for the adult daughter.
The Court judgment has been met with surprise and is likely to be of concern to charities and anyone who has chosen to exclude a close relative from their Will.
As a result of the judgment it is more important than ever for individuals to record the reasons for including and excluding particular beneficiaries and charities from their Will. The case reminds us that there are some situations where the court will intervene to override an individual's wishes, but even so, it is worth noting that in this particular case two-thirds of the estate still passes to the charities that Ms Jackson chose to benefit from her Will.
For advice on bringing or defending a challenge to a Will contact Philip Collins - contact details below.