Battle of wills: when should a person’s dying wishes stand?
A last will and testament is a person’s final wishes over their property and estate. Or is it? Increasingly people are challenging their relatives’ wills and overturning them. The Supreme Court is now to hear a test case after the Court of Appeal awarded £164,000 to Heather Ilott, who challenged the will of her late mother, Melita Jackson.
Mrs Jackson died in 2004 leaving her entire £500,000 estate to three animal charities — Blue Cross, the RSPB and the RSPCA. She made clear her wish that none should go to her daughter, Heather, from whom she had been estranged for 26 years.
Heather Ilott challenged her mother’s will through the courts. In 2007, she was awarded £50,000 by District Judge Million to provide for her maintenance needs. She appealed but the Court of Appeal upheld the award in 2011. The case came before a High Court again for a decision and judge again endorsed the award made in 2007.
The dispute then went to the Court of Appeal, which last summer more than trebled the award to £164,000. This was to provide Mrs Ilott with enough money to buy the housing association property where she lives without causing her to lose her means-tested benefits. Now the three charities have been granted permission to bring the appeal in what will be the first test of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which allows for wills to be varied.
Richard Kershaw, partner at Hunters, the Lincoln’s Inn firm, added: “If the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeal, it will push the door ajar and encourage many more cases of this kind in future.”
Read the full article in The Times here (behind a paywall).