Couple signs each others will by mistake and their adopted son is left fighting court battles against disinherited natural sons
October 25th, 2011
In a weird case of inheritance a couple, without the knowledge, signed on each others Wills making the will invalid and the inheritance going to the very people who were disinherited by them.
The first battle for inheritance of £70,000 has gone in favour of the natural sons of the couple who were cut off from the inheritance.
Mr Alfred and Maureen Rawlings adopted unofficially Terry Marley an orphan when he was 15. Mr Marley lived with the couple right through their old age caring for them. In return the Rawlings who had two natural sons, decided to leave everything to Mr Marley and prepared separate Will leaving everything to the next surviving partner and in the event of the death of surviving partner the beneficiary would be their adopted son.
The actual shock came when both the Rawlings died in a span of three years and to everyone’s dismay found that the couple had signed each others wills by mistake. The wills were very much similar.
The mistake was blamed on to their solicitors.
Both the wills were invalidated by the court and the judge said that he was helpless as per the law in the absence of a validwill the beneficiaries would automatically be the natural sons.
Mr Marley 50, after losing the case against the natural sons has preferred appeal in the High Court. His lawyers argued that the couple wished to make Marley their heir and the court should allow their wish. The lawyer argued that the couple’s intentions in making their wills were very clear and beyond any doubt. As there was no fraud involved the couples intentions should be taken as the supreme concern.
The lawyer for the natural sons argued that the wills were not signed by the respective benefactors hence he died intestate. He said the formalities for making wills are laid down since long and they have to be followed. At times some defects do defeat the deceased’s testamentary wishes but law should prevail, the lawyers said. They added that the court had no jurisdiction to undo the wrong of the couple.
The judge Justice Proudman said though she regretted it she could not repair the mistake.
Judgement by the Appeals Court is listed to a later date.
Duncan Lewis provides with a considerate and discreet service and could help in providing expert advice on various issues including drafting of Will. In absence of a pre-emptive resolution a court action is required; the team at Duncan Lewis is well experienced to take claims to all courts and tribunals