Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Unexpected wills ruling could prompt rush of litigation claims

Probate experts expect that a recent court ruling, in the case of Marley v Rawlings, could lead to a flood of litigation claims.

The wills of Maureen and Alfred Rawlings, drafted in 1999, have been the latest focus of the Supreme Court. They had intended to leave their estate to a non-blood relation but an oversight by their solicitor meant that they unintentionally signed each other’s wills.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that despite the error in the signing of the mirror wills the couple’s intended heir should not be affected.

President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, stated that the wills should be treated in the same way as a commercial contract and that an obvious oversight should not be allowed to invalidate the testators’ wishes.

Previously this mix-up would have meant that the testator had died intestate producing a very different outcome.

Our Mark Francis commented that “Currently the law imposes stringent safeguards to ensure a will is properly signed but the law was set down in 1837. Perhaps this decision reflects the court’s willingness to take a more flexible, common sense approach in cases of obvious clerical error.”

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