March 18, 2016

The UK Supreme Court will soon hear what is being described as a landmark case to decide the country’s law on the extent to which courts can overturn gifts made in a will.

Heather Ilott’s mother explicitly told lawyers that her daughter “can expect no inheritance from me when I die.”

Ilott had eloped with her boyfriend (now husband) when she was 17, triggering a life-long feud with mother Melita Jackson.

After many failed attempts to repair the relationship, Jackson passed away in 2004 leaving her £486k estate to three animal charities: the Blue Cross Animal Welfare Charity, RSPB and the RSPCA.

Ilott – an only child – was awarded one-third of Jackson’s estate by the Court of Appeal in recognition of her welfare dependency, her very low income and her need to support five children.

The Appeal Judges described Jackson’s actions as “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”. Despite her specific instructions and even drafting a letter explaining her decision, Jackson’s desires were overturned.

Many have criticised the decision which can essentially remove one’s freedom in how they may distribute their estate.

Others contend adult children – who may have been badly treated – should receive a share in an estate from which they have been unreasonably excluded.

The appeal to the UK’s highest court is being conducted by all three charities and will be heard in the coming months.

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