Poisonous letter led to disinheritance

Posted: 27th November 2014

ProbateIn a family tragedy played out in public at the High Court, a judge has ruled that a widow who told her mother that she never wanted to see her again and wished she was dead had only herself to blame when the old lady wrote her out of her will.

The widow, in her sixties, argued that her mother owed her a ‘moral obligation’ due to years of unpaid work she had carried out in the family sweet shop. In very poor health, confined to a wheelchair and in straitened financial circumstances, she insisted that ‘reasonable provision’ should be made for her out of her mother’s £140,000 estate.

However, nine years before her mother’s death from cancer at the age of 80, she had written her an 'extreme' letter, which read in part, "As far as I am concerned, I no longer have a mother; you are not fit to call yourself that." She told her mother that she wished she had died instead of her father 15 years earlier.

The matriarch had her revenge when she signed her will the year before she died. She bequeathed not a penny to her daughter and, in a bitter side-letter, described her as 'a constant source of trouble’ to her and accused her of having shown ‘no interest whatsoever’ in her welfare. She stated, "I am adamant that she has already had her just rewards and she will be receiving nothing more from me."

Dismissing the widow’s application for a share of her mother’s estate, the judge noted that she had never seen her mother again after penning the poisonous letter. She had made no attempt to visit her, even after learning that she had terminal cancer, and had not attended her funeral.

Although she was under strain when she wrote the letter, the judge found that that did not begin to justify its extreme terms. She had ‘formally disowned’ her mother and, even if the latter did owe her some moral duty, that was ‘not cast in stone’. He concluded that the mother’s decision to disinherit her daughter was ‘objectively reasonable’ in all the circumstances.