Can you claim from an estate on a technicality?

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The court of appeal gave a fair decision recently when they agreed that the will still stands after a mix up where a husband and wife signed each others will, instead of their own! Thankfully, this case proves that the law is not an 'ass' and that there is flexibility in our legal system.

Last Will and Testament

A technicality


The dispute came about when Maureen and Alfred Rawlings drafted 'mirror wills' in 1999. Mirror wills are 2 separate, identical wills. The couple intended to leave their estate to Mr Marley, a non blood relative in their mirror wills.

However, the sons disputed the wills on the basis the signatures were incorrect. The sons eventually lost their claim.

This case points out 2 things:

  • The Court of Appeal stated that it was clear that the couple intended for Mr Marley to inherit the estate, and this is what is important
  • The court considered this type of incident a 'clerical error' and these types of errors do not automatically render a will invalid

What does this mean for you?


The decision is important to both those making a claim and defending them. If you're considering disputing a will or involved in a dispute, you may be able to make a claim that the will does not contain what the person making it (the testator) intended to.

However, it is important to note that this is not the same as being told what their wishes are, and then learning they make a will with completely different intentions.

In contrary to this legal decision, it is worth noting that the courts do sometimes still make changes to a will where a close relative has been treated unfairly. In this case, the sons lost out on the inheritance. This seems to have been because Mr Marley was treated 'like a son' by Mr and Mrs Rawlings.


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