Oops! We signed the wrong Wills!!

November 28, 2014 9:52 am

Oops! We signed the wrong Wills!!

The recent case of Marley v Rawlings has raised many interesting questions. Mr and Mrs Rawlings visited their Solicitor in 2009 to execute their Wills leaving everything to each other. If that gift failed, then they wished to leave their entire estate to Mr Marley, who was like a son to them, although not blood related. The Solicitor at the meeting accidentally handed Mr Rawlings’ Will to his wife and vice versa. No one spotted the mistake and the Wills were signed.

When Mrs Rawlings died some years later, still no one spotted the error. Her estate passed to her husband without any dispute.

It was only when Mr Rawlings died that the error was identified. The two sons of Mr and Mrs Rawlings claimed that they should inherit the entire estate under the intestacy rules as neither parent had executed a valid Will. Mr Marley began court proceedings to seek to rectify the mistake. His claim was unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal who believed that they had no authority to rectify the Will. However, Lord Neuberger in the Supreme Court disagreed. He said that the Court should look at the intention of the parties, which was clearly to leave the couple’s entire estate to Mr Marley when they had both passed away.

Apart from the fact that they had signed each other’s Wills, the documents were correctly signed, witnessed and dated and the mistake was identified as a ‘clerical error’ capable of being rectified.

The judgment has wide ranging implications for the rectification of clerical mistakes, although its full impact has yet to be seen. What is clear is that the greatest of care must always be taken in the execution of legal documents. Careless mistakes can have serious implications!

Page Nelson regularly check our procedures and put in place safeguards to avoid such errors. Wills are initially prepared in draft form to be checked by our Solicitors and then our clients before being presented for signature.


Will Booklet pic


Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this matter further, telephone us on: 01522 687500 or email: enquiries@pagenelson.co.uk