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Will Dispute – Supreme Court rules in favour of animal charities

will dispute

Source: The Telegraph

Will dispute in the news. A six-figure award to a woman who was left out of her estranged mother’s will has been overturned by the Supreme Court after three charities appealed the decision.

Will dispute over lack of provision for adult daughter

Melita Jackson left the majority of her £500k estate to three animal charities. Her estranged adult daughter Heather Ilott made a claim against the estate. She argued that her mother had not made provision for her.

An original settlement of £50,000 made by a district judge was appealed by Mrs Ilott, who said it was not generous enough.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Mrs Ilott  should be awarded £160,000, including £143,000 to buy her housing association home. This has now been overturned by the Supreme Court which restored the original award.

What does this ruling mean?

The judgment means that, in terms of will disputes, adult children are less likely to be able to make a successful claim against parents’ estates if they are disinherited.

Mrs Ilott has no pension and lives on state benefits. She has five children and lived in a “modest” way, working as a bookkeeper for her actor husband who had “intermittent” work, the judgment said.

But it added that significant weight should be given to the wishes set down in a person’s will and that family relationships do not automatically override the needs of charities who would use the money to do good works.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63

It is the first time an appeal under the 1975 Act has reached the Supreme Court.

The law is normally used to benefit children or dependent relatives. This case is unusual because Mrs Ilott was an adult and financially independent from her mother when she made the claim.

A panel of seven Supreme Court justices, headed by president Lord Neuberger, restored the order made by a district judge in 2007 that the sum should be £50,000.

Leaving money to Charity

In the judgment Lord Hughes said that not enough weight had been given to Mrs Jackson’s wishes and that the good works the charities would do with the money added weight to their claim.

He said: “Charities depend heavily on testamentary bequests for their work, which is by definition of public benefit and in many cases will be for demonstrably humanitarian purposes.

“More fundamentally, these charities were the chosen beneficiaries of the deceased. They did not have to justify a claim on the basis of need under the 1975 Act, as Mrs Ilott necessarily had to do.”

The judges also said that children would be entitled to more if they had had a close relationship with the parent and therefore a greater expectation of receiving something in a will.

Clarification of the law needed

The judges also said that the law around wills should be clarified to avoid similar cases arising in future.

In a separate judgment Lady Hale said: “I have written this judgment only to demonstrate what, in my view, is the unsatisfactory state of the present law, giving as it does no guidance as to the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether an adult child is deserving or undeserving of reasonable maintenance.

“I regret that the Law Commission did not reconsider the fundamental principles underlying such claims when last they dealt with this topic in 2011.”

Only child Mrs Ilott was rejected by her mother at the age of 17 because she left home without her mother’s knowledge or agreement in 1978, to live with her boyfriend Nicholas Ilott, who she later married.

Attempts at reconciliation failed, and when 70-year-old Mrs Jackson died in 2004 her will made no provision for her daughter.

Outcome

 

Lawyers said the decision would make it more difficult for children to claim against a parent’s will.

A spokesman for the charities said: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has given welcome reassurance that……..the wishes recorded in a person’s will must be respected.

“Blue Cross, RSPCA and RSPB and the charitable sector as a whole rely on generous gifts left in wills, without which much of their valuable work could not be done.

“This judgment will allow us to continue to honour the wishes of individuals who choose to remember charities in their will.”

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/15/supreme-court-rule-case-daughter-left-mothers-160k-will-favour/

 

Will & Probate Disputes

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