High Court
The landmark award was made in the Court of Appeal after a decade long legal battleWikipedia

A woman, who was cut out of her late mother's will, has been awarded a six-figure payout by the Court of Appeal.

Melita Jackson, who died in July 2004 at the age of 70, left her entire estate to animal charities.

Mrs Jackson wanted her estate of £486,000 to be split between The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Now, after a ten-year legal battle, her only daughter, Heather Ilott has been awarded £164,000 by senior judges in the Court of Appeal. They stated that the award would save the poverty-stricken mother-of-five from a life of financial desperation.

Ilott became estranged from her mother 26 years ago, after she eloped with her boyfriend Nicholas Ilott, who she later married. Jackson never forgave her daughter and several attempts at a reconciliation had failed.

The court was told that the couple were now living on the bread-line, were unable to buy a home of their own, and Ilott is so poor that she had "never had a holiday".

"She had difficulty affording clothes for her family, was limited in the food she could buy and much of what she had was old or second hand," said the QC.

The couple have five children and live in Great Munden, near Ware, Hertfordshire. The judges said they earn "very small incomes" and their monthly expenses were "modest".

The appeal judges ruled in her favour, stating that her income was "not reasonable" for her future as she was on benefits and had no pension.

In a judgment handed down on Monday (27 July), Lady Justice Arden said: "This is a case where the court can and should make reasonable financial provision out of the deceased's estate for the appellant's maintenance so that her living expenses are relieved without affecting the state benefits on which she relies."

They further added that Mrs Jackson had "no connection" with the animal charities and suggested that she had been unduly 'harsh' in cutting her out of her will.

"It was not Ilott's fault that her mother had turned against her, said the QC. "Heather had an unreasonable, capricious and harsh mother. Mrs Jackson took offence at Heather's choices although they were choices she was entitled to make and it was reasonable to expect her mother to accept.

"Instead her mother consistently undermined reconciliation attempts. Although Heather was at some fault, her mother was the dominant cause."

Mrs Ilott was awarded £143,000 to buy her rented home from a housing association, and an extra £20,000 as "additional income".

Experts have said the decision could leave wills open to challenge.

Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society's wills and equity committee, said: "This ruling is saying that while you can still disinherit your children, you are going to have to explain why and show connections with those you are leaving the money to.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "It is also very important because it seems to be making it easier for adult children to claim for reasonable financial provision in wills and has made the gap wider for them to do that."

In a press release, James Aspden, solicitor for the three charities said they were "surprised and disappointed" by the court's decision.

Nearly £2bn a year goes to charity through legacies. The landmark ruling has major implications for the work of the whole charity sector.