Supreme Court win for Animal Charities

Last month, the Supreme Court reached a landmark ruling by finding in favour of three animal charities, who were appealing against a decision by the Court of Appeal in July 2015, to award £164,000 to Heather Ilott, the estranged daughter of the late Melita Jackson who left all of her assets to the three organisations in 2004.

The ruling meant that Mrs Ilott will now receive just £50,000 out of the total estate of £500,000, the amount originally awarded in a county court ruling. Ilott had been estranged from her mother for over 25 years at the time of her mother’s death, who had written a letter to the Executor alongside her will which confirmed her intention not to leave any money to the daughter.

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The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the three charities overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal.

Lord Hughes, one of the Supreme Court judges who handed down the ruling, said: “Charities depend heavily on testamentary bequests for their work, which is by definition of public benefit and in many cases will be for demonstrably humanitarian purpose.

“More fundamentally,” the judge said. “These charities were the chosen beneficiaries of the deceased.”

James Aspden, partner at Wilsons Solicitors who represented the three charities, said:

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling confirms, very clearly, that we are in general free to choose who will inherit our property when we die. It clears up a number of points where the law had become uncertain and will enable people drafting wills to give clearer advice to their clients. The most important message it sends is that your wishes matter and that if you choose to record those wishes in a will, they will be listened to.”

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