Wills: Woman rejected by mother claims £164,000 inheritance after Court of Appeal ruling

Can you ever challenge a Will if you feel that you have been treated unfairly or unjustly?

Well yes you can: but it’s not so easy to do. What you have to do to challenge a Will is prove that it hadn’t been properly executed. If that can be successfully proven then the Will will be deemed invalid and will not be admitted to probate.

However, following what looks to be a landmark case in the Court of Appeal, everything may be about to change. An estranged woman cut out of her mother’s Will has been awarded a £164,000 inheritance after judges ruled that the mother hadn’t left “reasonable provision” for her in her Will.

The facts of the case were that Heather Ilott, of Ware, Hertfordshire, eloped with her then boyfriend [now husband] when she was 17 and was subsequently excluded from her mother’s Will as she did not want her daughter to receive a penny from her estate. Her mother, Melita Jackson, made her final Will in 2002, land died in 2004 leaving her entire estate of £486,000 to the animal charities RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross; charities with which she importantly had little connection.

Mrs Ilott challenged the Will claiming firstly that her mother’s actions were unreasonable and secondly that she should have made reasonable provision for her daughter in her Will. In an earlier hearing Mrs Ilott was awarded £50,000. She then challenged this decision but her appeal was rejected by the High Court. However, the Court of Appeal overturned this decision and awarded Mrs Ilott a third of her mother’s estate, as Lady Justice Arden claimed Mrs Ilott’s mother had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh.”

So what impact could this landmark decision have on anyone wanting to leave a legacy in their Will?

Well, at face value the ruling could significantly weaken people’s right to leave money to those they want to inherit it. Experts say the ruling means you can still disinherit your children but you’ll have to explain why and what connects you to those you do leave money to. That will make it easier for adult “disinherited” children to challenge wills and claim greater sums by way of reasonable provision.

The solicitor representing the charities however – James Aspden from Wilsons LLP, said it was a “worrying decision for anyone who values having the freedom to choose who will receive their property when they die”.

For more details on the implications of this case, or for further information on Wills, probate and estate management contact Harold Stock & Co Solicitors on 01457 835597 or email info@haroldstock.com

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