The Supreme Court ruling, expected today, in the case brought by
Heather Ilott following her exclusion from her mother Melita
Jackson's will should assist in clarifying the law relating to
the grounds on which family members who are excluded from an
inheritance can overturn a will.
Mrs. Jackson fell out with her daughter Heather when she left
home as a teenager to live with her boyfriend. At the time of Mrs.
Jackson's death there had been no reconciliation and Mrs.
Jackson left her estate to a number of charities, including Blue
Cross, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds and the Royal
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Heather Ilott,
who is in her fifties and has five children, furthermore is living
on benefits and has no pension, contended that she should have been
included in the will. Ms.Ilott embarked on a legal challenge to
overturn the will and the initial award by the High Court was in
the sum of £50,000. Both Ms. Ilott and the charities
appealed, Ms. Ilott on the basis that it was too little and the
charities on the basis that it was too much. The award was varied
on appeal and Ms. Ilott was awarded £143,000 to buy her
rented home with a further £20,000. The charities presented
another challenge and the case continues today in the Supreme
The vast majority of charities will put up a considerable fight
to retain any bequests made to them which inevitably results in
substantial legal costs for both sides. In the case of Dr.
Christine Gill's successful battle with the RSPCA when, after
she gave up her job as a lecturer to care for her parents and run
their farm, she found that she had been completely excluded from
her mother's will Dr. Gill was able to access funding through
an insurance policy. There have been questions asked of charities
as to whether they should refrain from fighting such cases to the
bitter end and come to an agreement with the dissatisfied family
member thereby avoiding the lengthy proceedings and the significant
legal costs that accompany the challenge.
The Supreme Court's decision, when it eventually is given,
will provide welcome clarity to the Inheritance Act 1975 and shine
a light to all parties as to what is or is not an acceptable ground
in the case of adult children who have been excluded from a
In theory the laws of succession in Italy should make it less
lightly for a dispute to arise and far easier to unravel such a
dispute should one occur.
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The well documented case of Heather Ilott and her attempt to overturn her Mother's will appears to have come to an end with the Supreme Court ruling that, whilst she may have be granted some money from her Mother's estate, it is a far smaller sum than the Court of Appeal awarded.
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