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Court Of Appeal Decision ‘Highlights Need For Reputable Wills Advice’

Expert Urges Public To Seek Professional Help On Wills


Legal experts at Irwin Mitchell have called on those writing a Will to always seek professional legal advice when putting plans in place for their estate, after the Court of Appeal decision highlighted the massive implications of a simple clerical error.

The case relates to Alfred and Maureen Rawlings, who wanted to leave their £70,000 estate to each other and then to their unofficially adopted son Terry Marley rather than their natural sons.

However, it was revealed after Mr Rawlings’ death in 2006 that both of their Wills – originally finalised in 1999 – were invalid, as the husband had mistakenly signed his wife’s Will and vice-versa due to an apparent error by the solicitor involved. 

As the problem meant Mr Rawlings died intestate, the couple’s natural sons were named as official beneficiaries.

Now, the Court of Appeal have dismissed Mr Marley’s appeal over the issue, stating that the inheritance should remain with the sons as the legal “formalities” related to writing and signing the Wills was not satisfied in their preparation.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team have said the case highlights just why those making plans for the future need to ensure that they get professional legal guidance on making a Will and that it fully reflects their wishes.

Louise Sykes, Partner and head of the specialist team, said: “Anyone who makes a Will has a right to know that it completely covers them and fully outlines exactly how they would like their estate to be divided among their loved ones.

“Sadly, we’ve acted for a number of clients who have suffered as a result of badly prepared Wills and, as a result, have lost out on an inheritance which should have been theirs and faced a difficult, emotional battle to get it back.

“We would always urge anyone in a similar situation to seek legal advice as soon as possible, particularly as there may be scope to take their battle for justice to the firm which failed in its duty to properly reflect the wishes of the deceased.”

Louise added that while this option is available, such problems can be avoided from outset by checking the credentials of a legal team before asking them to help with preparing a Will.

She said: “Like any decision made about a product, you need to think carefully about the decision you’re making and ensure the will writers can meet your needs.

“Getting in touch with a reputable, reliable and professional solicitor can make all the difference and ensure that all of the terrible problems seen in this case are not repeated.”

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