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Senior Judges consider inheritance case

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A Supreme Court judgment on a landmark Wills dispute is expected in the new year.

The latest hearing in the protracted legal battle, which stretches back more than a decade, took place earlier this week.

A group of animal charities are fighting a previous decision to award a third of Melita Jackson’s estate to her estranged daughter Heather Ilott.

Following Ms Jackson’s death 12 years ago, her daughter had gone to court to argue that she should have received a share of the assets – despite the fact that the pair had seldom seen each other since Ms Ilott had left home as a teenager.

In 2007, a court ruled that she should receive £50,000, a figure which was more than trebled by the Court of Appeal last year.

The charities (the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the RSPCA) had been the original beneficiaries of Ms Jackson’s Will and have appealed against the second award.

The case is noteworthy as it is the first time that the highest court in the land has been asked to consider the underlying principles of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – the legislation under which Ms Ilott made her claim.

The law confers the right of a child to apply for an order if a Will made by a parent is not deemed to have made “reasonable provision” for their maintenance.

The Supreme Court’s deliberations are being closely observed because of the likely implications they could have for similar disputes in future.

In a joint statement, the three charities involved said: “[We have] appealed this decision in order to obtain essential clarity from the Supreme Court regarding the scope of the court’s power to interfere with a person’s testamentary wishes using the 1975 Act.”