Friday, 17 March 2017

Ruling means hopes are dashed

Children unhappy with their inheritance who had hoped to find it easier to challenge a parent’s will have had their hopes dashed.

A ruling by the Court of Appeal had initially paved the way for wills to be overturned or changed by the courts if they were deemed to be ‘unfair’.

But this week, the Supreme Court has stepped in to clarify the rules, and the judges overturned the decision which had backed a woman who had been excluded from her mother’s will in favour of three animal charities.

Andrew Oranjuik, who is the head of commercial litigation at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the latest decision had now cemented a person’s right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.

“Finally there is now a very clear direction on how the rules should be interpreted, and it underlines the importance of having a formal and legally-binding will in place.”

Mr Oranjuik said the case involved a 10-year legal battle by Heather Ilott, who went to court after her mother Melita Jackson left her entire £486,000 estate to animal charities. Mrs Ilott, who had been estranged from her mother for 26 years and was claiming benefits, had been granted a third of her late mother’s estate – a total of £164,000.

“But the Supreme Court has now overturned that result, and Mrs Ilott will only receive the original £50,000 that her mother had set out in her will. The judgement is excellent news for charities and will be a welcome relief that when a bequest is made, the person’s wishes should be respected.

“Many charities rely on legacies in wills and the three animal charities involved in this case will now receive the full amount they had been promised. The ruling also reaffirms a person’s right to have freedom of choice in what they do with their estate, meaning you can still disinherit your children in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out.

“This case has been a 10-year battle which thankfully now is over – and although Mrs Ilott will not receive as much money as she had hoped for, at least the Supreme Court has put an end to the matter and clearly defined how the rules should be applied.”