A death in the family can cause a lot of heartbreak, but this pain can even continue long after people have passed away. This is exactly what occurred in a recently resolved contested will case in the UK.
When Melita Jackson died in 2004, she donated the entire contents of her estate – estimated at around £486,000 (AUD $1.05 million) – to three animal charities. Despite Ms Jackson having a single daughter, Heather Ilott, the RSPCA, RSPB? and Blue Cross collected the funds from the estate.
Why was the daughter left out?
It is fair to say that the relationship between Ms Jackson and Ms IIott was frosty at best. The two had been at odds for many years, a row that was sparked after Ms IIott ran away from home with her future husband at age 17.
Ms IIott left home without a note or a goodbye, ending the relationship between the pair in the eyes of Ms Jackson. She remained disappointed, and despite the arrival of five grandchildren, did not work to fix the situation.
As mentioned above, Ms Jackson died in 2004, and to Ms IIott’s surprise, nothing was left for her and her family. This anger only grew after she found out that the estate was divided between three charities that Ms Jackson was not involved with at any stage of her life.
The Daily Mail reported that Ms IIott felt hurt and rejected by her late mother’s will, prompting her to contest it in court.
“My mother was a very difficult woman. She blew hot and cold with her emotions and was impossible to please. Heaven knows I tried,” the newspaper reported in a July 31 article.
“I never knew where I stood with her. After she died, I began to wonder if she’d ever loved me – why else would she be so spiteful?”
What was her argument?
Ms IIott’s argument was formed on two points. Firstly, the will did not make reasonable provisions for her and her family and secondly, and the will was unfairly harsh.
The court case took 11 years to reach a conclusion, with Ms IIott awarded £164,000 (AUD $356,000) from the total estate. This will provide financial security over the coming years to the family.
However, the case has opened the door for other similar cases that involve charity donations.
For more information about challenging a will, contact our expert team of lawyers today.