Landmark Ruling Could Mean Your Will Can Be Ignored
Author: Judith Bromley
A court case involving a woman cut out of her mother’s will could change the rights of people wanting to disinherit their children.
Heather llot of Hertfordshire was awarded £164,000 by the Court of Appeal after it ruled that her mother had not left "reasonable provision" for her in the will.
Mrs llot was cut out of her mother’s will after eloping with her boyfriend at the age of 17 - an act her mother, Melita Jackson could not forgive. Instead, Mrs Jackson chose to leave her £486,000 estate to animal charities, with which she had little connection, after she died in 2004. Mrs llot, who married her partner and has five children, had planned to use the inheritance to buy their housing association home.
In what could prove to be a landmark ruling, at the Court of Appeal Lady Justice Arden stated that Mrs llott's mother had been "unreasonable, capricious and harsh" and that Mrs llot should receive a third of the estate. As a result, Mrs llot will now be able to buy her housing association property without losing her state benefits.
Speaking of the ruling, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “This case could pave the way to significantly weakening the rights of people who leave money, or assets, to those they want to inherit it. While people can still disinherit their children, they will need to provide an explanation why and what connects them to those people or organisations they do leave money to. Otherwise adult disinherited children could challenge the will to claim larger sums by way of reasonable provision. If you’re planning to disinherit main beneficiaries, you need to seek professional advice to avoid any issues which could result in your wishes not being carried out.”
Mrs llot, an only child born two months after her father died in an accident, was originally awarded £50,000 in 2007 after a district judge concluded she had been "unreasonably" excluded by Mrs Jackson. Mrs llott’s appeal to get the amount increased at the High Court in London was dismissed in March 2014 by Mrs Justice Parker, who ruled that that £50,000 was appropriate could not "be said to be wrong". That decision was overturned in the Court of Appeal by Lady Justice Arden who said that Mrs llot should receive a greater proportion of the estate.