The Supreme Court has granted a number of animal charities permission to appeal an award made to the daughter of a woman who left them a substantial sum.
In Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others, the woman, born in 1961, was her parents’ only child. Her father died in an accident three months before she was born and so she was raised solely by her mother. In 1978, then aged 17, she left home without her mother’s “knowledge or agreement” and set up home with a man she later married. They went on to have five children.
As a result of her departure, the woman and her mother become estranged, a state of affairs that continued for the remainder of the mother’s life.
At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Arden explained:
“There were three attempts at reconciliation, all of which failed. On the last occasion, it failed because [the mother] took offence that the fifth child had been given the name of the appellant’s paternal grandmother, whom [she] did not like. I do not intend to go through the evidence about responsibility for the estrangement. It is enough to say that [District Judge] Million held that [the mother] had acted in an unreasonable, capricious and harsh way towards the appellant but that both sides were responsible for the failure of these attempts.”
In June 2004, the mother died, leaving a large estate, but making no provision for any member of her family, including her daughter. Instead the money was to be left to a number of charities, primarily the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The daughter receives state benefits and lives in “straitened financial circumstances”. She launched a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This allows the relatives of people have died to argue that a will did not make “reasonable financial provision for them”.
District Judge Million granted her an award of £50,000 under the Act. Her initial appeal was unsuccessful but she eventually succeeded at the Court of Appeal, arguing that the District Judge had failed to properly take into account her reliance on state benefits. She received a higher award which would allow her to purchase her home, along with a further sum structured in a way that it not affect her benefits.
But the charities who had been named as the original beneficiaries of the mother’s will pursued their case and have now been granted permission to appeal the case by Supreme Court.
They argued that the initial £50,000 award made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 should not have been set aside, and furthermore, that the Court of Appeal should not have allowed her revised award to be structured in a way that preserved the daughter’s access to state benefits..
Read the ruling under appeal, from July 2015, here.