Expert Reveals Implications Of Court Decision
An expert at Irwin Mitchell specialising in contested wills has suggested that a ruling in relation to a woman who left her estate to animal charities rather than her daughter could have a major impact on a number of cases in the future.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that Heather Ilott, 50, can request a larger share of her estranged mother Melita Jackson’s estate, despite the latter stating in a Letter of Wishes that her daughter should not expect anything from her will due to a fallout many years ago.
Charities including the Blue Cross, RSPCA and RSPB were originally expected to receive the entire estate, but judges ruled that it was “unreasonable” of Mrs Jackson to put the third sector bodies ahead of her own daughter.
Discussing the case in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Adam Draper of Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Estate and Trust Disputes Team said it has brought the issue of charitable donations in wills into the spotlight.
He explained: “Many people chose to leave all or part of their estate to charity and such gifts are an important part of many charities income.
“However, this case looks set to have a major impact on how wills, including gifts to charities, will be treated, when such gifts have been made at the detriment of family and friends, who contest the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
“The ruling is likely to make it much easier for family members who have not been named in a will to bring a claim in relation to an estate where a sum is left to a third sector body or other unrelated parties.
Adam added that the issue means that those preparing wills need to take care and ensure they think carefully about which people and organisations they would like to benefit in the event of their death and those people who may have a potential claim .
“While there is no way for a person preparing a will to guarantee their estate does not become the subject of a dispute, they can still do everything possible to avoid such situations,” he advised.
“Legal advisers and will writers can provide support in terms of instructions and the drafting of wills to ensure all of the terms are clear and concise and that all potential claims have been considered and prepared for.
“In addition, those planning for the future should take time to consider whether they should be leaving money to charity ahead of any dependents or family members and the amount of the gift.”
This case may set a major precedent leading to a significant increase in the number of claims made by family members for financial provision from a deceased’s estate.”
If you are involved in a will dispute or need further information about contesting a will, please visit our Will, Trust & Estate Disputes section