A woman who was cut out of her mother’s Will entirely has won £164,000 from her inheritance, in a judgement that has far-reaching implications.
Melita Jackson left her entire fortune of almost £500,000 to animal charities when she died in 2004. She had been on bad terms with her daughter, Heather Ilott, for many years, and had made it clear that she did not wish her to inherit anything at all.
However, Ms Ilott went to court to contest the Will. The Court of Appeal ultimately ruled that she should receive a third of Ms Jackson’s estate. The judgment was made on the grounds that Ms Jackson had not made “reasonable provision” for her daughter in the original Will, and on the basis that the deceased had no connection with the charities she had left her money to.
More and more people are challenging Wills – something that experts say is being driven by the rise of DIY Will kits, as people try to save money on organising estate planning. However, in many cases this proves to be a false economy, since money and possessions can end up going to those they specifically did not want them to. Whilst Will kits may be suitable for the simplest cases, in other instances they leave the door open for family members to contest a decision.
The ruling does not mean that it will be impossible to disinherit family members in the future. However, it will be necessary to explain what connection you have with the recipient – making it easier for disinherited children, for example, to contest a Will if it is incomplete.
Although Ms Jackson did explain her decision in her most recent Will – a letter mentioned that her daughter had left home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend – this was deemed inadequate. Ms Ilott had already won the right to a £50,000 inheritance in 2007. This judgment had to be reversed before the Court of Appeal ruled that she was entitled to a greater share of the estate.
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