Law won't over-rule charitable bequests
The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of three animal charities which had challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal to award £160,000 to a daughter who was left out of her estranged mother's will.
Heather Ilott's mother left most of her estate to the three charities - the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. There was no provision for even a penny for her estranged daughter.
Mrs Ilott contested the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for "reasonable financial provision".
That legislation allows children of deceased parents to apply for an order if reasonable provision is not made for them in the will.
Mrs Ilott was an unemployed mother-of-five with no pension, and was living on State benefits. She was initially awarded £50,000 from the estate by a District Judge in 2007, but the Court of Appeal increased this to £140,000 to buy her Housing Association Property, and another £20,000 structured to allow her to keep her benefits.
The charities appealed that decision and the case went to the Supreme Court, saying they wanted to "affirm the importance of testamentary freedom".
The Court of Appeal decision was overturned and the amount awarded to the estranged daughter reduced to the initial £50,000.
James Aspden, the solicitor acting for the three animal charities, said the Supreme Court had upheld a "vital principle".
"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," he said.
Huw Worthington is managing partner at Worthingtons Solicitors and specialises in wills and administration of estates. Should you have any queries in relation to this article, or require legal advice on a will, contact our Belfast or Newtownards offices by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 028 9043 4015 or 9181 1538