McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Supreme Court offers Common Sense on wills Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a mix-up in mirror wills should not be allowed to disinherit a couple’s intended heir. In this case a couple accidentally signed each other’s wills In 1999. The content of those “mirror wills” were  identical except for the names. They had left their estate to a friend who was not a blood relation. After the death of the husband (a few years after his wife) the mistake came to light and the couples sons who would stand to inherit under the intestacy rules if the will were invalid sought to use the obvious error to their advantage. In 2012 the High Court said that it was not in it’s power to change the will, even though there was no doubt that the couples wishes were clear. Thankfully the Supreme Court has applied a bit of Common sense (sadly lacking in the Law at times). Lord Neuberger said “Whether the document in question is a commercial contract or a will, the aim is to identify the intention of the party or parties to the document by interpreting the words used in their documentary, factual and commercial context”. He went on “I would therefore allow this appeal, and hold that the will should be rectified so that it contains the typed parts of the will signed by the late Mrs Rawlings in place of the typed parts of the will signed by Mr Rawlings”.

So a common sense approach to the whole sorry affair has finally been brought to bear. The cautionary tale of getting the basics correct first time should not be lost either. The costs involved in all of these proceedings could have easily been avoided in the first place with the simplest of checks. The old adage that the laywers are the only winners in cases like this certainly seems true.

Our wills and Probate department would be happy to help with any will drafting, and our contentions probate/litigation department with any will disputes. Please contact in the first instance or complete the enquiry form on the website.


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