Britain’s Court of Appeal has overturned the will of a mother who had chosen to give her estate to animal charities rather than her only child.
The mother, Melita Jackson, should have given a reasonable provision to her daughter, Heather Ilott, who is living on benefits and has no pension, Judge Mary Arden says. In its ruling, the court also says Jackson had no connection with the charities named in the will.
The pair had been estranged for 26 years, after Ilott left home at 17 to live with her soon-to-be husband. Several efforts at reconciliation failed.
Jackson died in June 2004, leaving almost all her 486,000 pounds ($758,000) estate to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Blue Cross, a charity for abandoned animals.
The court awarded 143,000 pounds ($223,000) to Ilott, who lives north of London in Hertfordshire county, so she could buy her rented home from a housing association and a further 20,000 pounds in cash as “additional income.”
The charities say in a statement that the ruling could have serious ramifications for non-profit groups that receive income from bequests, and “raises serious questions about whether people generally have the freedom to choose who they want to leave money to in their will.”
They add they’d consider whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.