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Daughter wins £164,000 in Will dispute

A daughter has won £164,000 in an inheritance dispute after the court ruled her mother should have included her in her Will.

Heather Ilott took her case to court after her mother died in 2004, leaving her £486,000 estate to various animal charities.

However, yesterday, the Court of Appeal ruled that she should inherit a third of the estate, some £164,000 in total.

The case had already been to the Court of Appeal on the question of whether Mrs Ilott should receive anything and was now back in the Court of Appeal to decide how much she should receive.

The Court of Appeal said the daughter succeeded not just because she was Mrs Jackson’s daughter, but because of her specific personal circumstances.

This was despite the daughter not having had contact with her mother since leaving home at the age of 17, to live with, and then marry her present husband, and went on to have five children.   All attempts at any kind of family reconciliation failed through faults on both sides.

The daughter was living in a rented housing association property, had never had a holiday, had difficulty in clothing her children and was limited even in the food she could buy. 

The case was complicated by the fact that the she received State Benefits and the Court seemed to recognise that it would be pointless to award money from her mother’s Estate if this money would be lost because of reductions in benefits.

The result

In the end the Court decided to award Mrs Ilott £143,000, the purchase price of her housing association property, plus an additional £20,000 as an “immediate capital sum”.

To arrive at that decision the Court made it clear that as the Act says provision must be based on “reasonable financial provision by way of maintenance” i.e. income type needs not a share of capital.

The original Judge who had awarded £50,000 had based that on an entitlement to a little under £3,000 per year.

That Judge was held to have been wrong in taking into account the daughter’s frugal/impoverished lifestyle in fixing the level of the award and also for not taking into account properly the effect the award would have on her benefits. (In fact she would have lost most of them).

It was perhaps significant in this case that the other beneficiaries were all charities who could not be said to be able to demonstrate any competing needs.

Mike Spencer is a Director at Actons Solicitors, and specialises in advising on will disputes, inheritance disputes and contentious probate.  He commented:

“To summarise then, the Courts will continue to interfere in appropriate cases, but financial awards for adult children who are non-dependent is likely to be still limited to cases like this, where a real need or moral obligation can be shown.”

“What is frankly astounding in this case is the number of Court hearings that there have been. Whilst some of the daughter’s representation was provided for free, there will be a fairly hefty legal bill.”

“Given the relatively small size of the Estate it is very disappointing that they were not able to resolve the case outside of Court by negotiation or mediation.”

Posted on July 31, 2015

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