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Animal Charities Give Way to Human Needs in Will Dispute

Everyone has the right to choose who to benefit in their wills – however, that right is not unrestricted. In one case, a mother who cut her poverty stricken daughter out of her £486,000 estate, leaving almost everything she had to animal charities instead, has had her will effectively re-written by the Court of Appeal.

The mother fell out with her daughter many years before her death when the latter eloped with her teenage boyfriend. Alongside her will, the mother left specific instructions in a letter of wishes that any attempt by her daughter to make a claim on her estate should be actively resisted, if necessary in court.

The daughter, a mother of five who lived in straitened circumstances, nevertheless launched a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. The claim was resisted by her mother’s executors and three animal charities. However, a judge found that her mother had failed in her duty to make reasonable provision for her in her will and awarded her £50,000 from the estate.

In upholding the daughter’s appeal against that decision, the Court found that the judge had under-estimated her reasonable needs. Her portion of the estate was increased to £164,000 to cover the cost of purchasing her housing association home and to modestly supplement her benefits income.