Daughter’s successful will challenge could spark more

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It is always of great interest to us in the legal world when a story about the law makes the mainstream news – and such an event is not one that can go by without us commenting.

In recent weeks we’ve had one such national case where a landmark ruling has seen a woman awarded £164,000 after being cut out of her mother’s will in favour of animal charities.

Heather llott’s battle has lasted since her mother Melita Jackson’s death in 2004, where she was left without a penny from the £486,000 estate. However, the Court of Appeal has now ruled she should receive a third of the estate.

The ruling together with the subsequent national publicity surrounding it could well weaken people’s right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.

However, this ruling would mean people could still disinherit their children but would need to explain why they have decided to leave their money or assets to others and, even after that, the Court could still override their wishes.

For those of you unfamiliar, the court heard Mrs Ilott, 54, had never been forgiven by her mother for running off with her boyfriend at 17, and did not want her to receive a penny of her estate, which instead went to animal charities, the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross.

Despite her mother’s anger Mrs Ilott married her partner and over 35 years later the couple still live together in the Home Counties.

They have five children and the court heard Mrs Ilott planned to use the inheritance to buy their home.

The recent court appeal saw her awarded a third of the estate because her mother hadn’t left “reasonable provision” for her in the will.

The general feel amongst many in the legal world is this will probably encourage disinherited adult children to challenge wills and claim greater sums and lead to an increase in the number of wills being contested.

Mrs Jackson had made her last will two years before her death with a letter to explain why she had disinherited her only child.

In the latest hearing the judge Lady Justice Arden said Mrs Ilott’s mother had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” and ruled she should therefore receive a greater proportion of the estate.

It’s an intriguing tale, and it underpins what we feel at Bowsers that wills need to be written by professionals, and in an era of less conventional family structures than of old it also makes sense to revisit your will every so often.

Wills are vital documents and if a person wants to make sure their wishes are granted they need the best advice.