Animal charities win court ruling against woman left out of mother's will

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Three animal charities have won a challenge at the UK's highest court over a six-figure award to a woman who was left out of her estranged mother's will.

Supreme Court justices unanimously overturned a Court of Appeal decision which awarded mother-of-five Heather Ilott more than £160,000.

They ruled on Wednesday that an order made by a district judge in 2007 that the sum should be only £50,000 should be "restored".

That sum was decided after it had been accepted that Mrs Ilott, who is in her 50s, was entitled to bring a claim for reasonable financial provision.

The charities said later: "The ruling confirms our right to choose who will inherit when we die."

The justices were told that the appeal had been brought by the charities "largely on principle" because of the possible impact on other cases, and "some arrangement" - not disclosed in court - had been made with Mrs Ilott in the event of the appeal succeeding.

The ruling marked the end of a lengthy legal fight which began after Mrs Ilott's mother Melita Jackson left the majority of her £486,000 estate to charities and instructed her executors to defend any attempt by her daughter to contest it.

Only child Mrs Ilott, from Great Munden, Hertfordshire, was rejected by her mother at the age of 17 after she left home without her knowledge or agreement in 1978 to live with her boyfriend, Nicholas Ilott, whom she later married.

Attempts at reconciliation failed right up to when 70-year-old Mrs Jackson died in 2004.

Lawyers said on Mrs Ilott's behalf: "Heather is naturally very disappointed with the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment.

"Some of the judges have found that the current law is unsatisfactory and this will no doubt raise broader questions in the future."

The ruling was a victory for the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which argued that the appeal judges ''fell into error'' when deciding to increase the maintenance payout, which included £143,000 for Mrs Ilott to buy her housing association home.