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When a last will and testament might not be all it seems

You may be forgiven for thinking that instructions you write in your Will would always be executed exactly. If you also took the trouble to draft side letters expressly stating that your executors should carry out your Will to the letter that would be fine, right?

Wrong.

When Melita Jackson died in 2004 she made it crystal clear she didn’t want her estranged daughter Heather Ilott to benefit, so left her £486,000 estate to animal charities.

Despite requesting the executors defend any claims by her daughter, the Court of Appeal has ruled Ms Ilott should receive a third of the estate, following a claim based on financial need. Ms Ilott has never worked, instead she stayed at home with her five children and the family relied on benefits.

After appealing an initial award of £50,000, Ms Ilott’s award was increased to £164,000 after the Court found Mrs Jackson to have been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”.

In making the award, the Court took into account the connection that Mrs Jackson had to three animal charities she had appointed as beneficiaries and found she had little association with any of them.

Whilst the Court’s decision doesn’t mean you can’t disinherit your children, or anyone else for that matter, it does indicate you may need to demonstrate a connection to beneficiaries and explain detailed reasons for making gifts to certain people or charities.

For further advice on making or contesting a Will, please contact Craig O’Hara, partner at Chafes Hague Lambert Solicitors on 01625 531676 or email craig.ohara@chlsolicitors.co.uk

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