Animal charities take will contest to Supreme Court

Topics: Courts business,Wills & Probate

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A decade-long fight between three animal charities and a woman who was cut out of her estranged mother’s will is set for the Supreme Court.

The dispute attracted widespread media attention last July after the Court of Appeal awarded £164,000 to a woman from her estranged mother’s estate, even though the mother, Melita Jackson, had stated she did not want her daughter to receive anything.

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Jackson had instead opted to leave her entire £500,000 estate to animal charities. But her will was overturned and a third of her estate was handed to her daughter, Heather Ilott, on the grounds that she had not been given ‘reasonable financial provision’.

At the time, Lady Justice Arden said that Ilott’s resources, which included an annual household income of under £7,000 and state benefits of around £13,000 ‘are at such a basic level that they outweigh the importance that would normally be attached to the fact that the appellant is an adult child who has been living independently for so many years’.

The final award was structured to allow Ilott to keep her benefits.

The Supreme Court yesterday gave the charities, including Blue Cross, the RSPCA and the RSPB, permission to appeal. It said it would decide whether the appeal court was wrong to set aside the award made in the first instance on the back of Ilott’s claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act.

It will also look at whether the Court of Appeal erred in its approach to the ‘maintenance’ standard under the act, or if it was wrong to structure an award in a way which allowed Ilott to maintain her entitlement to state benefits.

Readers' comments (52)


  • Back in the day Charities behaved well.

    This is yet another illustration however of the current grasping, greedy attitude taken by these loathsome Charidee organisations.

    If it's not Chugging in the street, it's not reasonably accepting a CoA decision, but frittering away yet more money on legal battles.

    I do hope that the SC increases the money payable to the daughter, and makes an Indemnity Costs order against the Charidees concerned.

    I, for one, will be advising clients never to leave a penny to Blue Cross, the RSPCA and the RSPB...

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  • I wholeheartedly agree with you Marshall. I am all for the small localised community charities, where you can see local donations being reinvested back into that same local community. But these large mainstream so called charities are in my opinion nothing but a blatant scam on the hearts and loyalty of the people, where it has been proven time and time again now that they are investing such donations into means that are of a despicable and uncharitable nature.

    I too hope that the daughters award is increased, sighting aggravating circumstances and if I had my way that amount would be to the tune of the whole flaming lot.

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  • Telling that the COA found the deceased to have acted in an 'unreasonable and capricious' way toward her daughter who, it should be added, has 5 children of her own and struggles to make ends meet... What on earth is possessing these charities to run such a risky endeavor?

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  • One word: GREED!

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  • I must disagree. This is about how easy it is to leave your fortune to someone not being maintained by you at the date of your death-testamentary freedom. The current position is a litigator's charter where anyone who's a bit poor and who hasn't seen their aged parent for ages can have a go and get a settlement out of the estate. And then the will writer will get sued for not securing a will in accordance with the testator's wishes.

    Exactly the kind of case that should be looked at by the Supreme Court.

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  • Anon 11.36: Please can you post the link here to support the facts that you are relying on to have made your opening statement, because you seem to know more 'factual' background knowledge on this case than most. Thanks


    There are many trivial and nonsensical reasons why children get written out of their parents will. In my friends experiences because his parents wanted him to be a Doctor but he a Musician. And so how do we know based on what has been reported here that this sad story is not one of those such idiotic instances?

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  • The case is here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/797.html

    They were estranged. The mother might have been "unreasonable". The issue seems to be what is "reasonable provision" for a child estranged from their parent who has acted "unreasonably" over the estrangement.

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  • " In my friends experiences because his parents wanted him to be a Doctor but he a Musician. And so how do we know based on what has been reported here that this sad story is not one of those such idiotic instances?"

    Why would it matter if it were? Sadly there is no law against being an idiot. If the disgruntled would-be beneficiary is not dependent on the estate why should the law say "dead person, we're ignoring your wishes of what to do with your property, even though there's eff all we could do if you gave it all away 6 months before you died."

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  • This will be fact sensitive.

    However, a charitable - dare I say it, loving : let alone political /PR - interpretation of the claimant's position should make the defendants think.

    They didn't as far as we know. Would any high street solicitor have allowed this case to go this far? The costs will come, I assume, from the estate. Maybe there'll be nowt left.

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  • It's very saddening to see people buying into the recent media hype surrounding charities. The three animal charities cited perform exemplary jobs in society, though I will concede the RSPCA is prone to bizarre litigation - I would put this down to those running the cases than the charity itself.

    It is well established law that if a will is effective, the intentions of the deceased must be performed. If the deceased lady in this case wanted to leave all of her money to charities, so be it. It was her money to do with as she pleased. She clearly had good reason not to leave any money to her litigious and bitter daughter and as a result, we are seeing the highest courts in the land making bizarre decisions which do nothing but disrespect the deceased lady.

    Her daughter deserves nought!

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