An Essex-based specialist in inheritance disputes says local charities left money in wills need to be wary of a high-profile case in the Supreme Court which could impact the amount they receive in legacies.
It follows the case of Melita Jackson who left her estranged adult daughter out of her will and gave most of her £486,000 estate to three animal charities.
The daughter, Heather Ilott, contested this and was awarded £50,000 by a district judge; which was increased to £160,000 by the Court of Appeal. The charities appealed the decision, which was overturned yesterday by the Supreme Court who restored the original award.
Amanda Smallcombe, a partner at Birkett Long LLP in Colchester, said: “Although the Supreme Court approved the County Court decision to give Mrs Ilott money from the her mother’s estate in spite of their estrangement, the Court did, in fact, take into account the deceased’s wishes to leave the money to charity, which will no doubt please many.
“However, these claims remain particularly difficult to predict and are very dependent on their own facts. The Court had to confine itself to the question of whether the appeal should be allowed and the original order reinstated. The judgement confirmed that there were, in fact, a range of alternative outcomes which would also have been justifiable and therefore provides only limited clarity.
“The Supreme Court did stress the importance for charities of legacies in people’s wills. However, local charities still need to be aware that adult children who are left out or receive only a small amount under a will may still seek to bring a claim.”