12-year will dispute makes its way to Supreme Court

A 12-year legal battle between three animal charities and a disinherited woman has made its way to the Supreme Court this week.

The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) were originally left almost £500,000 in the will of Ms Melita Jackson, who passed away in 2004.

But estranged daughter and only child, Mrs Heather Ilott, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, that her mother’s will did not make “reasonable provision” for her – a claim which has left the three major charities battling to protect the funds they inherited.

According to reports, Mrs Ilott fell out with her late mother in 1978 at the age of 17 and the two became estranged for the remainder of the mother’s life.

Several attempts at reconciliation proved unsuccessful and Ms Jackson made no provision for her daughter in her will.

Mrs Ilott claims that her mother, aware that her estranged daughter was in financial distress, left her fortune to the three charities instead “out of spite”.

In 2007, a Court awarded the estranged daughter £50,000 after a Judge ruled that Ms Jackson’s decision was “unreasonable, capricious and harsh,” according to reports.

In 2015, the Court of Appeal awarded Mrs Ilott a further £163,000 of Ms Jackson’s £486,000 fortune upon hearing that Mrs Ilott and her family of five children were facing “severe financial difficulties”.

The three charities in question continue to fight their case in a bid to “affirm the importance of testamentary freedom and secure crucial guidance for the future,” according to reports.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the trio said: “The charities have appealed this decision in order to obtain essential clarity from the Supreme Court regarding the scope of the Court’s power to interfere with a person’s testamentary wishes using the 1975 Act.”

Reports suggest that the final judgment will effectively decide whether it is reasonable for parents to pass their fortune to charities at the point of death without making “reasonable provision” for their children.

Carter Lemon Camerons LLP Solicitors is a City law firm which provides wills and probate services with a personal touch to its clients. Unlike many City practices we are happy to act in smaller private legal matters, bringing the same care and consideration as we do to large commercial matters.  If you require advice on wills and probate, please contact Ian West or Michael Woodward or telephone: 020 7406 1000.