The RSPCA faces a £1 million legal bill after losing an inheritance battle over a 287-acre piece of land left to it in a will.
The land comprises Potto Carr Farm near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, valued at £2 million.
The former owner of the farm, Joyce Gill, died in August 2006, aged 82. 13 years before her death, she and husband John Gill (who died in 1999) signed “mirror wills.” The wills stated that if one of them died the farm and all their savings would pass to the other; and upon the death of the last surviving spouse, the farm would go to the animal welfare charity RSPCA.
As a consequence, the couple’s daughter Dr. Christine Gill received nothing.
Dr. Gill challenged her mother’s will, however, and last autumn Leeds High Court ruled in her favour. The court said her “domineering” father had coerced her mother into changing her will to leave the farm to the RSPCA.
Dr. Gill said her father may have sought to disinherit her because he did not like her half-Polish husband. She also thinks he may have had a “bee in his bonnet” about not having a male heir at the time he drew up the will.
The RSPCA said it was legally obliged to fight the case: “The will left by Dr. Gill’s parents was very clear – in one sentence they left their entire estate to the RSPCA, and in the next they said their daughter should receive nothing.”
But the court found the charity should have done more to try to settle the case using mediation.
It described the attitude of the RSPCA towards alternative dispute resolution as “unreasonable”.
After the hearing, Dr. Gill said: “The judgment reflects the attitude the RSPCA have taken right through this, they wouldn’t even talk to me, ever.”
** Additional Information & Advice **
Alternatively, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in wills & probate. You can find a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.
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