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Dispute Over Marine’s Will ‘Highlights Complexities’

Case Highlights Range Of Issues That Can Arise


The dispute being played out over the will of a Royal Marine who was killed in action in Afghanistan highlights the complex issues that can arise when it comes to life after a death in the family, an expert at Irwin Mitchell has suggested.

Reports have revealed that the partner of Sergeant John Manuel, who was killed in 2008, is battling against his family for a greater share of his estate. Sunderland County Court heard that the marine had told his family to hand a £10,000 package to Rachel Douglas in the event of his death.

However, Ms Douglas has claimed she is entitled to inherit more as their relationship had grown stronger since Sgt Manuel completed his will in 2002.

Adam Draper of Irwin Mitchell’s Wills, Trust & Estate Dispute team, which advises families locked in disputes over the contents of wills, said the case highlights the complications that can arise when a loved one passes away.

“While we do not know the full details of this specific case, from what we know there are a range of reasons why Ms Douglas would be eligible to make a claim,” he explained.

“For example, if she can prove she lived with the deceased for the period of two years immediately before his death and if she can prove that the deceased was maintaining her either in part or fully prior to his death, she can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

Adam added the suggestion that Ms Douglas contributed monthly to household bills may also raise some issues.

He outlined: “This is where a constructive trust arises, which is where an individual acquires a property for the joint use of himself and another and there is an understanding that the property was to be shared beneficially.

“Theoretically, the partner could claim the contributions she made were evidence of such an arrangement and that, as a result, she has an interest in the capital held in the property.

“Ultimately, what this case highlights above anything is just how difficult disputes over wills can become. It also highlights that ensuring wills are as up-to-date as possible can play a vital part in avoiding costly and difficult court battles.”

If you are involved in a will dispute or need further information about contesting a will, please visit our Will, Trust & Estate Disputes section