A landmark legal ruling has seen a daughter who was explicitly left out of her mother’s Will awarded £164,000 in inheritance on appeal.
Heather Illot’s mother, Melita Jackson, passed away in 2004 and left her £468,000 estate to animal charities. Mrs Illot had eloped at the age of 17 with her boyfriend, an action that her mother had never forgiven and caused her to explicitly remove her daughter as a beneficiary. As a result, Mrs Jackson’s estate was left entirely to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross charities.
When Mrs Jackson passed away in 2004, her last Will explicitly stated that she did not want her daughter to receive a distribution, referencing her decision to leave the family home in 1978. In an accompanying letter she wrote: “I can see no reason why my daughter should benefit in any way from my estate. I have made it clear to my daughter that she can expect no inheritance from me when I die.”
In 2007 a District Judge ruled that Mrs Illot be awarded £50,000 but this decision was overruled when she then appealed for a greater share of the estate. However, the latest ruling has now awarded her a third of the estate because her mother hadn’t left “reasonable provision” and was unreasonably excluded by Mrs Jackson. The Court of Appeal ruled that Mrs Illot would otherwise face a life of poverty because she was on benefits. She will now be able to buy her housing association property and won’t lose out on any benefits.
Experts have suggested that this landmark ruling now means that can still disinherit your children or relatives but greater care will need to be taken to explain why and what connects you to those that you do leave money too. However, some have argued that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that allows anyone excluded from a Will to challenge the wishes of the deceased, even if a legitimate Will has been made.