“Charity begins at home” as the old expression goes. An expression recently adhered to in the Court of Appeal hearing involving Melita Jackson’s estate when her daughter attended disputing the Will.
In her last will and testament drafted in April 2002, Mrs Jackson left her estate (worth in the region of £500,000) to three separate animal charities, completely writing her only daughter, Heather Ilott, out of any entitlement to her estate.
Also, when the original will was drafted, it was done so with two notes; one explaining why she was not leaving her daughter anything, and another stating that any claim brought by her daughter should be defended by the executors.
Mrs Ilott left home at 17, running away with her boyfriend who later went on to become her husband and father of their five children. However, this was a move that her mother never forgave her for and, despite three separate attempts of reconciliation, they never settled their differences. The final attempt breaking down as Mrs Jackson took offence that her fifth grandchild had been given the name of Mrs Ilott’s mother-in-law, who Mrs Jackson did not like.
As a result of this, and various other factors throughout their relationship, the Court of Appeal agreed with District Judge Million that Mrs Jackson “had acted in an unreasonable, capricious and harsh way” towards Mrs Ilott.
It was also held that Mrs Jackson had no connection with the three charities to which the estate was originally left in the will, which meant there was no expectation from their perspective that they might have been a direct beneficiary.
The Court of Appeal decided to award Mrs Ilott £164,000, far more than the £50,000 she originally gained following the County Court decision. Specifically, £144,000 of that award was to allow for Mrs Ilott to buy her housing association home, and £20,000 to supplement her benefits, as she was living on the breadline struggling to afford clothes for her children and having never had a holiday.
The high profile nature of this ruling suggests how unaware people generally are to their rights to property left in a will if they are closely connected to the deceased.
The Inheritance (Provision for Dependants) Act 1975 requires that ‘reasonable provision’ should be made for an eligible applicant if they wish to appeal their entitlement under a will.
Therefore, if you have been left with nothing or much less than you feel you ought to be entitled to, there is prospect for you disputing the will or challenging the estate for a greater share. Andrew Flagg Solicitor in the litigation department will be happy to help you. Please telephone 01323 434416 and we can assist you further.
Of course the above case also highlights that there is a need for clarity and certainty in the drafting. You will need to explain your reasoning very clearly should you wish to omit a potential dependant from the will, and preferably demonstrate clear connections with the people or organisations you intend to leave your estate with.
If you are thinking of drafting a will, please contact us on 01323 434414 and our Private Client team will take you through the process.