A landmark ruling where a woman has been awarded £164,000 after being cut out of her mother’s inheritance in favour of animal charities could see a tidal wave of contested wills, believes a Wirral law expert.
Heather llott went through a long court battle after her mother Melita Jackson left her £486,000 estate to animal charities when she died just over a decade ago.
However, the Court of Appeal has ruled she should receive a third of the estate.
Candice Jones, a wills expert at QualitySolicitors David Roberts & Co said the ruling will possibly weaken people's right to leave money to those they want to inherit it.
She said the ruling would mean people could still disinherit their own children but would need to explain why they have decided to leave their money or assets to others.
The court heard Mrs Ilott, 54, had eloped at the age of 17 with her boyfriend and, as a result, her mother had never forgiven her and did not want her to receive a penny of her estate, which was left to animal charities, the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross charities.
Mrs Ilott married her partner, and the couple live in the Home Counties. They have five children and the court heard Mrs Ilott planned to use the inheritance to buy their home.
This week she was awarded a third of the estate because her mother hadn't left "reasonable provision" for her in the will.
She'll now be able to buy her housing association property and won't lose her state benefits.
Mrs Jones, whose firm are based in New Brighton said ”This ruling means you can still disinherit your children but you'll have to explain in more detail what connects you to those you do leave money to.
“This will make it easier for adult disinherited children to challenge wills and claim greater sums and this will almost certainly lead to a tidal wave of contested wills.”
Mrs Jackson made her last will two years before her death in 2004 with a letter to explain why she had disinherited her daughter, referring to the fact she had walked out of her home as a teenager to live with her boyfriend.
Mrs Ilott, who was an only child, had in 2007 won the right to an inheritance of £50,000 after a district judge concluded she had been "unreasonably" excluded by Mrs Jackson. That ruling was reversed, before Appeal Court judges ruled she was entitled to a share.
When Mrs Ilott appealed to get the amount increased, Mrs Justice Parker dismissed this at the High Court in London, ruling in March 2014 that the previous decision that £50,000 was appropriate could not "be said to be wrong".
However, in the latest hearing Lady Justice Arden said Mrs Ilott's mother had been "unreasonable, capricious and harsh" and ruled she should therefore receive a greater proportion of the estate.