The sanctity of making a Will has been upheld by the Supreme Court, which has overturned a decision to increase the sum of money left to a woman by her estranged mother, who left her entire £500,000 estate to three animal charities.
Melita Jackson left most of her estate to charities but not a penny to her daughter, Heather Ilott, when she died in 2004.
In 2007, Mrs Ilott was awarded £50,000 by a judge, which was tripled on appeal four years later. But the charities challenged the increase, saying people should be free to choose beneficiaries, and the court agreed she would receive only the original amount.
Mrs Ilott, who is in her 50s, had made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate.
The court heard that she had been rejected by her mother at 17 after she left home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend, Nicholas Ilott, whom she later married.
Attempts at reconciliation failed, and when Mrs Jackson died 12 years ago her Will made no provision for her daughter, by then a mother of five, who had no pension and received state benefits.
Most of the £486,000 estate was left to the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Before her death in 2004, Mrs Jackson wrote in a letter to lawyers: “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.”
James Aspden, the solicitor acting for the three animal charities, said of the decision: “It reaffirms in a unanimous sense from the highest court in the land that principle that we’re all free to choose who will benefit when we die.”
How can Gotelee help?
A reluctance to talk about death is understandable – it’s the ultimate eventuality many of us spend our lives trying to ignore.
But failing to properly prepare for the future by making a Will can leave those we care the most about facing unnecessary pressures at an emotionally fraught time.
Our specialist team of lawyers can meet you at one of our offices, Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton and can guide you through the process of making a Will, to ensure all your wishes are carried out just the way you want.
Gotelee can also advise on the general procedures of administering an estate, obtaining the Grant from the Probate Registry and distributing the estate in accordance with the Will or the intestacy rules if there is no Will.
To find out more, call 01394 388605.