A woman cut out of her mother’s will has been awarded a £164,000 inheritance in what could prove to be a landmark ruling.
Heather Ilott, of Ware, Hertfordshire, went to court after her mother Melita Jackson left her £486,000 estate to animal charities when she died in 2004.
The Court of Appeal has ruled she should receive a third of the estate.
The court heard Mrs Ilott, 54, had eloped at the age of 17 with her boyfriend and, as a result, her mother had never forgiven her and did not want her to receive a penny of her estate. It was left to the RSPCA, RSPB and Blue Cross charities.
Mrs Ilott later married her partner. They have five children and the court heard Mrs Ilott planned to use the inheritance to buy their housing association home.
When Melita Jackson died in 2004 she made it crystal clear she didn’t want her estranged daughter Heather Ilott to benefit, and so left her estate to animal charities with which she had little connection.
The relationship between mother and daughter soured when, aged 17, Heather eloped with her future husband.
Yesterday she was awarded a third of the estate because her mother hadn’t left “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
She’ll now be able to buy her housing association property and won’t lose her state benefits.
Experts say the ruling means you can still disinherit your children but you’ll have to explain why and what connects you to those you do leave money to.
That’ll make it easier for adult “disinherited” children to challenge wills and claim greater sums by way of reasonable provision.
Mrs Jackson made her last will in 2002 with a letter to explain why she had disinherited her only daughter, referring to the fact she had walked out of her home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend.
Mrs Ilott, who was an only child born two months after her father died in an accident, had in 2007 won the right to an inheritance of £50,000 after a district judge concluded she had been “unreasonably” excluded by Mrs Jackson. That ruling was reversed, before Appeal Court judges ruled she was entitled to a share of the money.
Have the flood-gates been opened allowing disinherited children to challenge their parent’s Will ?
- This position makes it very clear that the reasons of disinheritance must be made very clear with the underlying circumstances having been considered appropriately. The Court can intervene in contested Will cases if it feels it is equitable to do so.
A builder who refused to take payment from a pensioner for cleaning out his gutters has been left £500,000 in the man’s will – but now faces a bitter High Court battle.
Daniel Bryan Sharp says he struck up a six-year friendship with Ronald Butcher after the job at his bungalow. But Mr Butcher’s family and friends say Mr Sharp is lying and the will does not reflect his “true last wish”.
Mr Butcher, described as a “private and quiet man”, died at his home in Enfield in March 2013 at the age of 75. His body lay undiscovered for almost two months, the court heard. Mr Sharp said he was shocked to discover Mr Butcher had left him the whole of his £500,000 fortune in a will drawn up two months before he died. The builder insists the document — which cuts Mr Butcher’s family out of any inheritance — is valid and was made of his own free will.
But the family want Judge Leslie Anderson QC to revoke the will in favour of an earlier one, which left his money to them.
The judge heard that by the time he died, his family consisted of his cousin, Joyce Gilkerson, and Evelyn Hutchins and Peter Rogers, the children of a close school-friend, who each regarded him as their “uncle Ron”.
These three were the equal beneficiaries of what they thought was Mr Butcher’s final will and testament, dated December 2011.
Araba Taylor, for Mrs Hutchins, who is heading the challenge to the 2013 will, told the judge it is accepted that Mr Butcher had the mental capacity to make a will when he signed the document and it is not a forgery. But she told the judge the “odd” nature of the bequest to Mr Sharp ought to “excite suspicion” that Mr Butcher did not fully comprehend or approve its contents.
Miss Taylor said Mr Sharp had to show that Mr Butcher understood the effect of the document, and that it was his “true last wish” to leave everything to the builder.
But Jennifer Seaman, for Mr Sharp, told the judge: “Mr Butcher was a lonely man who found a friend in Mr Sharp. Mr Butcher knew what he was doing when he made the 2013 will and what its effect would be. They had a shared interest in DIY and he liked to hear about Mr Sharp’s son. That is an explanation why he wanted to make the 2013 will.”
Mr Sharp, in the witness box, told the judge how his friendship with Mr Butcher began. He said: “When I first cleaned out his gutter he offered me a tenner or 20 quid for it, but I said no, I wouldn’t take it. It was a nothing job that took seconds.”
On learning of his windfall, he added: “I was shocked to be given something like that. It’s life-changing. Nobody gives you nothing in life.”
Mrs Hutchins, 53, of Southgate, in the witness box, said her family had been close to her “uncle” but agreed she and her brother had seen more of him before their mother died.
However she denied Miss Seaman’s accusation that they had “slowly lost contact” with him, saying: “One or other of us would go and see him every break we had. I had tried to pop in around March and had phoned.”
Her brother, Mr Rogers, 57, went further, claiming Mr Sharp was “lying” about being Mr Butcher’s friend. The hearing continues.
Builder wins court fight for £500,000 fortune he was left by pensioner whose gutters he fixed for free.
- Ronald Butcher, 75, of Enfield, London, left life savings to Danny Sharp.
- Builder Mr Sharp, 45, had cleared the pensioner’s gutter six years earlier.
- Mr Butcher cut his cousin and two family friends out of his will
- High Court has ruled the £500,000 estate should be handed to Mr Sharp.
A builder who cleared a lonely pensioner’s gutter free of charge has won a court battle for the man’s £500,000 inheritance.
Danny Sharp struck up a friendship with Ronald Butcher, who died aged 75 in 2013, after waiving a fee for fixing the elderly man’s drain as it was a ‘nothing job’.
Two months before Mr Butcher’s death, he changed his will in the favour of Mr Sharp, 45, leaving his entire estate in the kindly builder’s name.
The unlikely pair remained friends for six years after the original job, with Mr Sharp dropping by whenever he was in the area for a chat.
The builder, a boxing coach whose son, Archie Sharp, boxes for England, also said he and the pensioner had a mutual interest in the sport.
But Mr Butcher’s family said they had never heard of or met the builder, taking the fight over the pensioner’s will to the High Court.
The pensioner, who was found in his home two months after he died, ‘hated sport’, they claimed, also insisting that the builder ‘knew more about the will than he is letting on’.
They also attacked the validity of the will, insisting that Mr Sharp’s story was ‘ludicrous and absurd’.
However, Judge Lesley Anderson QC today described the builder as ‘a truthful and straightforward witness’.
She said: ‘I find that Danny was kind to Mr Butcher, calling on him and doing odd jobs for him without charging.
‘Mr Butcher indulged his passion for talking and their real shared interest was their mutual chat, banter and human interest stories, such as Archie’s success.’
There was ‘nothing suspicious’ about the will, and accusations that the pensioner’s signature was a forgery had been disproved by expert handwriting evidence.
- This case makes it very clear that the intentions of the Testator or Testatrix are respected but, of course, challenges to Wills will always be a reality because many Testators and Testatrixs disinherit family members, or others who feel they have a moral claim to inherit for one reason or another. It seems that the Court will always consider the surrounding circumstances of every contested case on its own merits. There are no hard and fast rules since the reasons for disinheritance can be so diverse. Getting to the root of the Will is essential.