THREE animal charities have won a legal dispute over an almost £500,000 estate left to them in a woman’s will.
The Supreme Court overturned an appeal which had awarded the woman’s daughter more than £160,000.
The charities said the ruling confirms people’s ‘right to choose’ who inherits. Mother-of-five Heather Ilott (pictured) was ‘naturally very disappointed,’ her lawyer said.
Only child Mrs Ilott, of Great Munden, Hertfordshire, had been estranged from her mother, Melita Jackson, since 1978 when she left home aged 17 to live with her boyfriend, Nicholas Ilott, whom she later married.
When Mrs Jackson died, aged 70, in 2004 she left the bulk of her £486,000 estate to charity with instructions to defend any attempt by her daughter to contest the will.
A district judge ruled in 2007 that Mrs Ilott was entitled to £50,000 ‘for reasonable financial provision’. But the Appeal Court later increased this to more than £160,000.
Yesterday’s judgment said the original £50,000 award should be ‘restored’.
The ruling was a victory for Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ‘We are pleased that the Supreme Court has given welcome reassurance that the wishes recorded in a person’s will must be respected,’ they said. ‘This judgment will allow us to continue to honour the wishes of individuals who choose to remember charities in their will.’
The charities said they brought the appeal ‘on principle’ and had already reached an undisclosed agreement with Mrs Ilott.