The supreme court has overturned a decision to increase the sum of money left to a woman by her estranged mother, who left her entire £500,000 estate to three animal charities.
The protracted dispute over Melita Jackson’s will has made its way through the English courts since her death, at 70, in 2004.
The final judgment, handed down on Wednesday, overturned a court of appeal ruling which increased the amount awarded to Jackson’s only child, Heather Ilott. Ilott was rejected by her mother at 17 after she left home in 1978 to live with her boyfriend, Nicholas Ilott, whom she later married.
The decision means Ilott, who was not in court, will receive £50,000 rather than £163,000.
Attempts at reconciliation failed, and when Jackson died 12 years ago her will made no provision for her daughter, by then a mother of five, who had no pension and received state benefits.
Most of the £486,000 estate was left to the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In 2007, the county court awarded Ilott £50,000 on the grounds that her mother had acted in an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” way towards her.
Ilott, from Great Munden, Hertfordshire, challenged the award. In 2011, the court of appeal decided that sum was insufficient and increased it to £143,000 for a house purchase plus £20,000 for living costs.
The supreme court ruling reverts to the original county court decision.
Ilott, who is in her 50s, made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate.