On 02 February 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision that mirror wills were invalid due to a couple having signed the other's will by mistake. Lorraine Burke in our Contentious Probate Team explains the decision.
Terry Marley, now aged 50, lived with Alfred and Maureen Rawlings since he was 15. They had not formally adopted him however they did treat him as their son. He cared for them in their old age.
The couple made mirror wills 13 years ago disinheriting their sons, Michael and Terry Rawlings. They wished for the entirety of their £70,000 estate to pass to Terry Marley. Mrs. Rawlings passed away in 2003 and her estate passed to her husband. Mr. Rawlings survived for three more years.
It was after Mr. Rawlings' death in August 2006, that it came to light that they had signed each other's will by mistake. This had not been noticed when Mrs. Rawlings died.
Michael and Terry Rawlings argued that the Mr. Rawlings' will had not been executed by him and so he died intestate. This would mean that the estate would pass to them as his sons. Mr. Marley challenged this.
It was found by the High Court that whilst Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings' intention was clear, they had not executed their own wills and so the wills were invalid.
Mr. Marley appealed, however the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court.
The law is very certain in this area. No matter how clear your intentions are when you make your will, unless it is properly executed, the will does not count.
Mr. Marley was ordered to pay Michael and Terry Rawlings' costs which are in the region of £25,000.
However, all is not lost for Mr. Marley. He could consider bringing an action under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to begin with.
For more information on this or any other similar issue, please contact Lorraine Burke by emailing Lorraine or by calling her on 08450 990045, or speak to your usual contact in the Family Team.
This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this document