Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

RSPCA appeal against Northallerton will judgement

Christine Gill at Leeds Crown Court
Dr Gill looked after her mother following her father's death in 1999

The RSPCA has started an appeal five months after losing a court battle over a £2m estate left to it in a will.

Dr Christine Gill overturned her parents' will last October after the High Court found her father had coerced her mother into making the document.

The will had left the couple's 287-acre farm, near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, to the RSPCA.

The charity, which has been ordered to pay a huge legal bill, confirmed it had lodged an appeal against the judgement.

A spokeswoman said the RSPCA's trustees had decided to appeal after "careful consideration", because "they wish to see Mrs Gill's wishes, as expressed in her will, given effect".

Charities 'concerned'

The charity said Mrs Gill had seven years after her husband's death in which to make a new will, if she felt her exisitng will did not represent her wishes.

In a joint statement with the Charities Aid Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association the RSPCA said: "This case has been troubling for many charities, and we are very concerned at its possible implications for the charity sector.

"It is unacceptable for charity trustees to be caught between the legal duty to secure assets to which the charity is entitled and the threat of huge legal costs being imposed for attempting to do so.

"It is crucial that this matter is finally settled, one way or the other, so charities can be more certain of the legal landscape, and can plan accordingly.

"This case also highlights how important it is for people thinking of leaving money to charity in their will to inform those closest to them of their wishes during their lifetime."

Last month the RSPCA was told it faced court costs of up to £1m.

A judgment by Judge James Allan QC found the charity had failed to resolve the dispute in an alternative way despite repeated attempts at mediation by Dr Gill, a Leeds University lecturer.

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