There are occasions when decisions are made by the higher courts that come as something of a surprise.

Lawyers think they know the law and then a decision from a higher court arrives, which turns that assumption upside down.

This occurred last month when, after a 10-year-long legal fight with three animal welfare charities over a mother’s decision to cut her out of any inheritance, a daughter, who was reliant on state benefits, was awarded £164,000.

This was contrary to the mother’s wishes freely expressed in her will, which was effectively to cut her daughter out of any inheritance as effectively a punishment for eloping with her boyfriend when she was only 17.

As always with decisions such as this that are reported in bullet points by the press, there was a complex background. Although at first sight the decision appeared surprising, it was in fact clearly the correct one in all the circumstances.

The daughter was on the breadline and the evidence was given that she had never had a holiday and had difficulty in clothing her family.

The mother’s decision was cruel and most of her wealth derived from compensation awarded after the daughter’s father had been killed in an industrial accident.

Evidence was given to the court that there had been reconciliation attempts between mother and daughter, which had been attempted by the daughter but the mother had been resistant.

The purpose of the award was to enable the daughter to purchase a housing association property.

Clearly, there was a loser in this case and the loser were the three charities that had expected to receive the bequest.

Indeed, these charities are largely dependant on bequests left in people’s wills.

The declaration by the charities’ lawyer that the decision had “major implications for the work of the whole charity sector” was probably not far off the mark.

The application made by the daughter was made under the Inheritance and Family Provision Act, which allows a dependant person to make a claim on an estate where they are not a beneficiary under a will.

This ruling could make it easier for adult children to challenge wills if they don’t believe their parents have left them a reasonable provision.

If someone wishes to disinherit their children, then it would be a good idea for them to set out in a clear memorandum or letter – or indeed in the will – why they chose to do that and then explain what connects them to the people or organisations that they have included in the will instead.

One piece of evidence in the case before the Court of Appeal was that the mother had no connection with the various charities to which the bequests had been made.

The decision does, in fact, follow the guidelines that were set down by Parliament in cases of this nature.

Surely, the decision in these circumstances must be the right one.