Inheritance Claims – Recent Court of Appeal ruling
The right of people to leave money and assets to whom they wish in their will has just been seriously undermined by a landmark court of appeal decision.
A woman has been awarded £164,000 from her estranged mother’s estate, even though the mother expressly stated in her will that she did not want her to receive a penny.
Mrs Jackson left her £500,000 estate to animal charities when she died in 2004.
However, after an eight-year court battle, her only daughter, aged 54, was granted a third of the money on the grounds that her mother did not leave “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
The Court of Appeal ruled that she would otherwise face a life of poverty because she was on benefits and could not afford to go on holiday or buy clothes for her children.
Also, the fact that Mrs Jackson had little connection to the charities to which she left her money played a part in the ruling.
This means that people would in future have to fully explain their reasons for why they had left money to certain parties and demonstrate tangible connections to them.
The ruling will also make it easier for adult children who are disinherited by their parents to challenge their wills and potentially gain a proportion of any estate.
James Aspden, the solicitor who represented the three animal charities, the RSPB, the RSPCA and Blue Cross, said: “This is a worrying decision for anyone who values having the freedom to choose who will receive their property when they die.”
Despite Mrs Jackson had left explicit instructions to the executors of her will to fight any claim her daughter might make after her death, Justice Arden awarded the daughter £164,000 to enable her to buy her housing association home.
The charities involved have stated that they would give “very careful consideration” to the case before deciding whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
As a result of this ruling anyone who has left an adult child out of their will might need to consider having the will re-drafted to ensure that it specifically sets out the reasoning for leaving out their offspring.