Man Contests Ex-Mother-in-Law's Will
A man who was promised an equal share of inherited money in a divorce settlement has been granted permission to challenge his ex-Mother-in-Law's will by the Court of Appeal, after he claimed the will had been forged.
Below, dispute resolution and litigation solicitor
, Arif Khalfe explores how problematic it can be when a will that is written with the hope of protecting money from unwanted beneficiaries is challenged by pre-existing existing agreements.
Divorce Disagreements and Proving a Will
When the Randalls divorced, it was agreed that the Mrs Randall would share any amount she inherited from her mother over the value of £100,000 in an equal, 50/50 share with her then husband.
Both parties accepted these terms and signed the papers.
The dispute began when Mr Randall's former mother-in-law dictated in her will that just £100,000 would be left to her daughter; remaining under the previously agreed threshold - meaning Mr Randall would receive nothing.
In what appears to be an attempt to trump the agreement terms of the divorce
, the £150,000 balance of the mother-in-law's estate was left to the wife's children.
Mr Randall challenged the validity of the will
, however Deputy Master Collaço Moraes ruled that he had "no interest"
in his previous mother-in-law's estate – this ruling has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal.
If the whole sum had been left to Mrs. Randall – without splitting the inheritance with Mrs Randall's children – Mr Randall claims he would have received £75,000.
But which legal document takes precedence – the divorce or the will?
Building a Case
The case was originally heard in the High Court back in 2014, when Mr Randall's questioned the validity of the will, pointing out some discrepancies with the final document.
At the time the Deputy Master ruled Mr Randall has no "legal standing"
to question the will and denied his case, adding that he had "very little"
chance of proving the will was invalid.
However, upon bringing his case to the Court of Appeal, Master of the rolls Lord Dyson, and Lady Justice King rejected the assertions from the High Court in London, stating that:"Justice in the general sense requires the husband to bring a probate claim to set aside the will - if this claim did not fall within the probate jurisdiction but fell within the general jurisdiction of the court, it is obvious he would have a sufficient interest in the subject matter of this litigation to bring the claim."
Arif Khalfe explains:"This case highlights how issues between two parties can become a series of legal spats over the perceived legitimacy of one document over another.""Determining which one will be held up as legally sound will naturally have to be taken to the courts for litigation; the claim that Mr Randall will likely bring is that the will was forged as a means to stop him getting access to the money he is believes he is entitled to.""The validity of the will should be brought into question – and may see the former Mrs Randall having to pay out to her ex-husband."