Woman wins £164,000 inheritance - despite being excluded from her mother's will

The Court of Appeal has awarded Heather Ilott a third of her late mother's estate

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People’s right to leave money in their wills to those they want to inherit it may have been significantly weakened by a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal.

In what may turn out to be a landmark ruling, Heather Ilott inherited £164,000 from her mother's will - despite having been cut out of it.

Mrs Ilott, 54, an only child, eloped with her boyfriend aged 17, leaving the family home and causing a rift with her mother Melita Jackson which never healed.

Mrs Jackson left her estate to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross animal charities.

Lady Justice Arden in the Court of Appeal said Mrs Ilott should receive the money as her mother had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”.

Q: What does the ruling mean for you?

Legal experts believe the ruling could have implications for how people need to draw up their wills. In future, people may have to explain the reasons behind why they have left money to certain parties and demonstrate tangible connections to them.

Q: Why is the ruling significant?

The ruling could make it easier for children disinherited by their parents to challenge their wills and claim a share of the estate - particularly if the child is in need financially. In Mrs Ilott’s case, Lord Justice Ryder and Sir Colin Rimer in the Court of Appeal agreed that awarding her the money was fair due to her difficult financial circumstances and basic human needs.

Q: Will people still be able to leave money to charities when they die?

Charities have warned that people could be deterred from doing so if their wishes could be overturned by judges. A spokesman for the solicitors representing the charities in Mrs Ilott’s case said it was a “worrying decision for anyone who values having the freedom to choose who will receive their property when they die”.