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Charities to appeal decision in Ilott inheritance case

Three animal welfare charities have mounted an appeal to challenge a judge’s decision which allowed a woman’s estranged daughter to overturn her Will.

They will be appealing the decision to override Malita Jackson’s Will, which explicitly disinherited her estranged daughter, Heather Ilott, and left her entire £500,000 estate to the three charities.

However, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependents) Act 1975, which is designed to give children reasonable provision, Mrs Ilott claimed that she had not been provided for in her mother’s Will.

In July 2015, a judge ruled that she should receive a share of the money, approximately £160,000.  Her financial status and limited income were important facts in the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the Will.

This case has been ongoing since 2007 and has been subject to multiple appeals from both parties; however last week the charities, who were the main beneficiary of the Will, were given permission to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court, stating that they were concerned about the implications that the decision could potentially have on legacies left to charities in Wills.

This case has raised concerns about people’s freedom to disinherit their children. Previously it was only possible to appeal against such a Will if the child could show that they had been financially reliant on the deceased family member, so estranged children were excluded.

Experts have stated that this ruling means individuals can still choose to disinherit their children but that they will need to explain explicitly why they are doing so and what connects the deceased to the organisations that they choose to leave their estate to. With the number of contentious probate cases increasing consistently in the last 12 months, cases like this illustrate that is as important as ever to review a Will on a regular basis to confirm it is still valid and to reduce the risk of decisions being contested upon death.

Andrea Pierce, Legal Services Director at Kings Court Trust, commented; “Given the potential impact of the Ilott case on charitable legacies, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the decision has been appealed.  Unfortunately, we see far too many estates that are beset by disagreements between beneficiaries which delay the distribution of the estate and obviously cause great stress to the family members at an already difficult time. Therefore, ensuring that your Will is clearly and professionally written is vitally important to ensure that your estate is dealt with as smoothly as possible.”