When Mrs Jackson died in 2004 she deliberately excluded her daughter from her Will and left her estate to animal charities with which she had little connection. In a surprising decision the Court of Appeal has, however, awarded the daughter a substantial settlement from her mother’s estate. This case could prove to be a landmark ruling and will no doubt come as unwelcome news to anyone keen to disinherit a family member in similar circumstances.
The court heard that Mrs Jackson’s daughter, Heather Ilott, eloped at the age of 17 with her boyfriend and, as a result, her mother had never forgiven her. Mrs Jackson made her last will in 2002 with a letter to explain why she had disinherited her only daughter, referring to the fact she had walked out of her home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend.
When her mother passed away, Ms Ilott brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This Act allows someone who was dependent on a person who has died to claim against their estate for ‘reasonable financial provision’ to be made if such provision has not been made for them in the deceased’s will. Ms Ilott successfully persuaded the Court that the absence of provision was ‘unreasonable’. This was surprising considering the two women had had no contact for years.
The factors which may have influenced the Court’s decision include the fact Ms Ilott is dependent on state benefits. Furthermore, Ms Ilott was also totally excluded from the Will with one judge describing her mother’s decision as ‘harsh, unreasonable and capricious’.