Disinherited daughter successfully challenges Will in landmark case

By Lenore Rice

A landmark court decision that awarded a disinherited daughter a third of her mother's estate, despite the latter's express intention that she should receive nothing, could result in more people contesting a Will in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Heather Illott, who was an only child, left home at the age of 17 to live with her future-husband. Her mother, Melita Jackson, never forgave her daughter and in her last Will, made in 2002, she disinherited her daughter and left all of her £486,000 estate to 3 charities. She died in 2004, aged 70. Mrs Illott contested her mother's Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act and was awarded £50,000, with the judge saying her mother had acted "unreasonably" in excluding her from the Will.

The High Court overturned that decision only for it to be reinstated by the Court of Appeal in 2011, however Mrs Illott continued to contest the Will and the amount awarded to her by the courts. The High Court rejected her claim for more money but she has now been successful in the Court of Appeal, who have awarded her a £164,000 inheritance because it held that her mother hadn't left "reasonable provision" for her in the Will.

Will writing solicitors have been reacting to the decision, with some saying it could result in many more people contesting a Will on the grounds of reasonable provision. The solicitor acting for the three charities that had stood to receive all of Ms Jackson's estate expressed concern about the implications for people's "freedom to choose who will receive their property when they die". The courts, it seems, will look at the reasoning behind disinheriting someone, and also the connections the deceased had to the beneficiaries they do wish to leave their property to, when assessing if a Will can be challenged.

If you require legal advice about contesting a Will in Northern Ireland, or about writing or updating a Will, contact Wilson Nesbitt solicitors in Belfast or Bangor by calling 0800 840 9293.

Or submit your details for a callback from a Will writing solicitor by clicking here.