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High Court Battle Prompts Warning From Wills Dispute Experts

Lawyers Urge Caution To Ensure Wills Are Watertight



Lawyers specialising in will disputes have today urged members of the public to take every step possible to ensure their wills are water tight after yet another high profile family row hit the headlines.

The call comes after a high court battle saw two brothers claim the £70,000 inheritance that their parents had chosen to leave to Terry Marley, who they had unofficially adopted when he was 15.

Despite stating that they wished to disinherit both natural sons and leave everything to the 50-year-old who had cared for them both in their old age, a devastating clerical error left the decision open to dispute.

Adam Draper, a will and wills dispute expert from law firm Irwin Mitchell said this type of case demonstrated the need to think carefully and to do your research when appointing a solicitor to draft your will.

He said: “Appointing a solicitor should prompt the same consideration and forethought as any other big decision or purchase. Are they reputable, reliable and professional?

“You want to know that your assets are going to be divided in the way you have stated in your will, providing you and your family with the peace of mind you deserve.”
Having successfully acted for a number of clients who have suffered as a result of negligently prepared and executed wills, and in doing so recovering damages to compensate those affected by the errors, Draper said the Wills Act clearly lays out the formalities necessary to ensure they are watertight.

After the deaths of Alfred and Maureen Rawlings it was discovered that Mr Rawlings had signed the will belonging to his wife and she had signed the identical will belonging to her husband in 1999 making both invalid and the natural sons the official beneficiaries.

Now Marley has launched a court battle to fight for his inheritance and, after losing to the sons in the High Court, he has now taken his case to the Appeal Court.

The mistake over the signatures – blamed on the solicitor and described by the QC as a ‘clerical error’ which should allow for rectification – came to light when Alfred Rawlings died in 2006, three years after his wife.

Draper said: “There are measures in place to ensure the consumer and their assets are protected from basic, clerical errors.  If the will cannot be rectified then it may be necessary  to take legal action against the firm responsible.”
A step he urged Marley to consider should the Court of Appeal not find in his favour.

“The wishes of both Alfred and Maureen Rawlings are clear but, because of what can only be described as admin errors; Mr Marley has suffered greatly both emotionally and financially.

“Through no fault of his own he is out of pocket and facing lengthy litigation. I would urge anyone in a similar situation to seek legal advice as a matter of course to ensure that every avenue for recompense is explored thoroughly.”

Judgment has been reserved by the Appeal Court to a later date.