Conclusive Decision Sought On ‘Mirror Wills’ Issue
A major case revolving the complications raised when a couple mistakenly signed each other’s Wills as a result of a clerical error has been brought before the Supreme Court this week.
The Will dispute is between the two biological sons of Alfred and Maureen Rawlings and a third ‘adopted’ sibling, Terry Marley, who lived with the couple for around 30 years.
Mr Marley was left the couple’s entire estate following the death of Mr Rawlings seven years ago, but the Rawlings’ sons Michael and Terry are arguing that identical Wills signed by their parents in 1999 are null and void as a result of the mistake made when they signed them.
If the Wills were deemed to be invalid by law, it would mean the couple died intestate and all of the estate including a £400,000 would fall to the biological sons.
The Supreme Court hearing in the case, which took place on Tuesday (3 December), follows the dismissal of an appeal by Mr Marley against the original judgment that legal formalities related to the preparation of the so-called ‘mirror Wills’ were not satisfied.
The Supreme Court has been given the responsibility of providing clarity once and for all on this incredibly difficult issue, specifically whether identical Wills signed by the wrong party in error should be allowed to stand.
"This is something that already happens in other common law cases but no conclusive decision has ever been made in English courts.
"Of course, another key issue that this scenario highlights is the importance of taking the utmost care and getting the best possible advice when writing and finalising a Will. The best supervision and support will ensure documents not only meet requirements but their preparation is executed precisely as you’d wish.
"The reasons are there for all to see, simply as one small error could have huge consequences for family and friends who could fall into both time-consuming and costly disputes regarding the documents left behind regarding their estate."
Paula Myers - Partner