In a legal first, three major animal charities have gone to the Supreme Court in a battle to win almost £500,000 left to them by a woman who cut her estranged daughter out of her will when she died 12 years ago.
The final judgement, which is not expected till next Spring, will basically decide whether parents must make reasonable financial provision for their children in their Wills or whether you can leave your money to whoever you want.
Not a penny
Heather Ilott was initially left without a penny when her mother, Melita Jackson, died aged 70 in 2004.
Instead, Mrs Jackson left most of her £486,000 estate to the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Reasonable financial provision
At the start of what has become a lengthy legal battle, Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate.
Initially she was awarded £50,000 by a district judge on the grounds that her mother had acted in an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” way towards her.
However, in 2011, the Court of Appeal ruled this sum was insufficient and last year decided that she should receive £164,000. This equated to about a third of her mother’s estate and was given to her in a way which protected her state benefits.
Charities say judges “fell into error”
The three charities involved say they are bringing the case to “affirm the importance of testamentary freedom and secure crucial guidance for the future”.
They argue that the appeal judges “fell into error” in deciding to increase the maintenance payout, which included £143,000 for Mrs Ilott, a mother of five, to buy her housing association home.
In a joint statement before the hearing, the charities said: “We look forward to the resulting clarity that the Supreme Court decision will be able to bring for the charity sector as a whole, and to the renewed confidence that a clear decision at the highest level will give to those making their wills, that their wishes will be respected.”
The seven Supreme Court justices have been urged to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling and either make another ‘appropriate’ order for Mrs Ilott’s provision or revert to the £50,000 order made in 2007.
To read more about this case take a look at our previous article Challenging your parents’ Will – has it just got easier?