Daughter wins fight to overturn mother's will

April 2, 2011 - 0:0

A woman has succeeded in overturning her mother's will leaving everything to animal charities, after the appeal court ruled it was unreasonable to have made no provision for her.

Representatives of the charities warned the ruling could open the floodgates to challenges from aggrieved relatives over bequests. Melita Jackson died in 2004, aged 70, leaving nothing to her daughter, Heather Ilott, and an estate worth £486,000 to the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the RSPCA.
The court heard that when she made the will in 2002, she also left a letter explaining that they had been estranged since her daughter eloped at the age of 17, and the rift had never been healed in her lifetime.
Ilott, who has five children, lives in what was described in court as “modest circumstances”, largely on benefits in a housing association home in Great Munden, near Ware in Hertfordshire. She first challenged her mother's will in the district court, asking for “reasonable provision”, and was awarded £50,000 from the estate.
She then asked the high court to increase the sum, but a cross appeal by the charities succeeded, leaving her with nothing.
Now three appeal judges, headed by Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division, have overturned that verdict, and ruled that the original district court conclusion was correct. They directed that her appeal over the amount of money coming to her should be heard by the high court – but also warned both sides to consider whether further costly legal action was in anybody's interests. Lady Justice Arden said it was clear that the law intended that an adult child should be able to make a claim, “even if it was possible for him or her to subsist without making a claim on the estate”.
Lawyers for the animal charities argued that Ilott and her husband had made “lifestyle choices” that left them short of money, and that since she had lived completely independently of her mother for 26 years, she could not now expect maintenance. (Source: Guardian.co.uk)