The normal rule is that a person can do whatever he or she wishes with an estate plan, as long as a few basic principles are taken into consideration, such as taking care of a spouse. Although most people choose to leave assets to their adult children, there is no requirement to do so. However, a recent ruling in the UK calls that into question.
Heather Ilott's father passed away when she was too young to remember him. He left behind a small, but not inconsiderable, estate from his earnings and compensation for his death which went to Ilott's mother, Melita Jackson.
At the age of 17, Ilott eloped with her teenage boyfriend. Despite attempts at reconciliation, Jackson never forgave her daughter.
Many years later, Ilott was impoverished and her mother passed away, still having a portion of the father's estate left. Despite her daughter's financial need, Jackson, still upset at the elopement, left her entire estate to charity. Normally, that would be the end of the story, but Ilott decided to sue for her mother's estate.
Over a decade later, the United Kingdom court system has ruled in Ilott's favor. The court ruled that Jackson acted cruelly and unreasonably in disinheriting her daughter.
Ilott was awarded a portion of the estate, most of which will go towards purchasing the house in which she lives.
The Guardian reported this story in "Daughter wins £164,000 after decade-long legal battle with will over charities."
Whether this is a new trend in resolving disinheritance disputes that might someday make its way to the United States remains to be seen. If you are considering a “disinheritance” as part of your estate plan, be sure to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who practices in your state.
Reference: The Guardian (July 27, 2015) "Daughter wins £164,000 after decade-long legal battle with will over charities."