£489,000 Bequest to Charities Sparked Legal Marathon

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A woman whose mother bequeathed her entire £489,000 fortune to animal charities will have to be satisfied with ‘reasonable provision’ of £50,000 from the estate after the High Court rejected her plea that she should be granted half.

The mother of five children, aged in her 50s, fell out with her mother after eloping from the family home with her boyfriend when she was 17. Her mother never forgave her and, when she died aged 70, did not leave her a penny in her will. Her daughter and grandchildren were left to exist largely on state benefits.

After a lengthy legal struggle, which encompassed four court hearings, including one before the Court of Appeal, the daughter’s straitened circumstances persuaded a judge that she was entitled to reasonable provision of £50,000 from her mother’s estate under the terms of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Appealing for a more substantial share, her lawyers pointed out that the terms of her mother’s will were unreasonable and argued that she should be awarded about half of the estate to meet basic needs, particularly for rehousing. Her application was resisted by the charities which benefted under the will.

The Court acknowledged that the charities had ‘no claim, moral or otherwise’ on the mother’s bounty. However, in dismissing the daughter’s appeal, the Court noted that the £50,000 was ‘a windfall’ for her to spend on improving her circumstances as she wished. Whilst recognising the daughter’s difficult financial position, the Court found that it was not ‘manifestly wrong’ to refuse her a sufficient lump sum to rehouse herself, her husband and the one child who remained at home.