Court of Appeal to Award a Woman £164,000 From Her Estranged Mother’s Estate

The media has been littered with coverage of a recent Court of Appeal’s decision to award daughter money she had not been left via her mother’s Will.

After a lengthy court battle, the Court overrode Melita Jackson’s Will, which left her £500,000 Estate to animal charities and expressly stated she did not want her daughter to receive anything.

The court granted her a third of her mother’s Estate on the grounds that her daughter had not been given ‘reasonable financial provision’ in the Will & that otherwise daughter would face poverty. The other significant factor in the decision was the mother’s apparent lack of connection to the charities she benefitted.

A Will is a legal declaration by which a person, the Testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her Estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death. If you die without a Will (“Intestate”), then the law will dictate who amongst your relatives receives what, which may include relatives you do not like or have not seen for years.

When Melita Jackson died in 2004 she made it crystal clear she didn’t want her estranged daughter Heather Ilott to benefit, and so left her Estate to animal charities with which she had little connection. The relationship between mother and daughter soured when, aged 17, Heather eloped with her future husband.

One consideration is mental capacity i.e. does the person have capacity to make the Will & decisions therewith. Presumably Mrs Jackson did have capacity to make that the decision as the Will hasn’t been challenged on these grounds.

The ruling seems more akin to European Law than English Law, as in France, Portugal & Spain for example; a person’s fortune is regarded to some extent as “family money” which has to go down the generations. This is commonly known as ‘forced heirship’.

This ruling means people can still disinherit their children, but they will need to have a good reason why and be able to explain what connects them to the people or organisations that they have included in their wills instead. A detailed letter of explanation to show that it was a considered decision is essential.

I would expect & hope for an appeal by the charities involved. Surely we must defend and preserve the right of a person to dispose of their assets as they see fit.

To arrange a discussion about a new or existing Will, please get in touch with Rick Barrow on 01625 523988 or mail@jbgass.com

Jackson Barrett & Gass are an award winning Cheshire Law Firm specialising in Conveyancing, Wills, Probate & Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

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