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A major ruling at the Court of Appeal could have a major impact on the way in which people write their will, in cases where the parents wish to disinherit their children.

Heather Ilott, from Hertfordshire, was left out of her mother Melita Jackson’s will when she died in 2004, with £486,000 being left instead to three different charities.

Mrs Ilott went to court to appeal the decision, despite the fact that her mother had given very explicit instructions that her daughter should not receive a penny. The court has now ruled that Mrs Ilott be awarded around a third of the inheritance – £164,000 – which she plans to use to buy her housing association home.

While we don’t yet know what the implications of the ruling will be, they are potentially quite significant to anyone who wants to leave specific instructions to disinherit someone in their will, or who has done so recently.

For example, there is a chance that it could pave the way for more adult disinherited children to challenge the wishes of their deceased parents.

It will also make it more difficult – but not impossible – for people to leave their children out of their wills. People writing their will are going to have to explain their reasons for disinheriting their children, and also explain their links to the organisations or individuals to whom they are leaving their estate.

The most important thing is to consult an expert – our DMA Law wills team can help with all aspects of life planning and making a will, and can help to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled when you die.

It is the second time within a month that inheritance has been in the news, after the recent Chancellor’s budget changed the boundaries so that inheritance tax need only be paid on estates of £1m or more (from 2020).

In truth, this is a change that has mostly been engineered to help out middle-class families in the South East, where escalating property prices have seen vastly more numbers of people liable to pay inheritance tax in recent years.

For people in the North East, the changes will have little real-world impact, but what it has done is offered a timely reminder of the importance of getting one’s estate in order.

Making a will – no matter how well off you are, or how old you are – is a really important step, especially if you are living with a long-term partner and/or have children.

It’s not morbid and it doesn’t need to be depressing – it’s just an opportunity to take control of your affairs and make that your possessions and property will go to the right people when you do pass on.

Making a will is usually a relatively straightforward process, DMA Law can help make it go even more smoothly. We have many years’ experience of dealing with Wills, Trusts Lasting Powers of Attorney and the Court of Protection, Care Fees Advice, Tax and Estate Planning.

Meanwhile, if you have any preliminary questions about making a will, you’re always welcome to visit our totally free legal walk-in centre, the DMA Law Link, on Skinnergate in Darlington. We’ll make you a tea or coffee and talk over your needs before you decide whether you want to progress – and there is absolutely no obligation.