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Supreme Court To Pass Judgment On ‘Mirror Will’ Case

Appeal Granted Over Validity Of Will Signed By Wrong Spouse


By Rob Dixon

Confirmation that the Supreme Court is to make a conclusive decision on a case related to the validity of so-called ‘mirror wills’ signed by the wrong spouses, will provide vital clarity on the issue once and for all, according to legal experts.

The case involved is Murray v Rawlings and another, which relates to Alfred and Maureen Rawlings who wanted to leave their estate to each other and then to their unofficially adopted son Terry Marley rather than their own natural offspring.

However, it was revealed after Mr Rawlings died in 2006 that the couple had signed each other’s wills rather than their own when they finalised the documents in 1999 – an error which led their natural sons to be named as official beneficiaries.

While the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Mr Marley, the Supreme Court has now granted permission for an appeal which will bring some clarity as to whether mirror wills signed by the wrong spouse should be deemed valid – something which does happen in other common law jurisdictions.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Will, Trust and Estate Dispute team said the decision made in the case would prove to be a vital one.

Adam Draper, a Partner and specialist in contesting a will at the national law firm, said: “This case has been a very unfortunate example of the costly and frustrating legal battles which can emerge as a result of wills being prepared in an incorrect manner.

“We see a great number of cases when disputes over inheritances and estates could have been avoided through those writing a will getting top-quality specialist advice and supervision when signing them to ensure that all aspects of the documents and their execution are carried out correctly and meet their wishes.

“However, the announcement by the Supreme Court is an interesting development which shows a willingness to make a firm decision on this issue and whether English courts should be brought in line with other jurisdictions.

“It will be interesting to see what happens and whether this will lead to a change in how these so-called ‘mirror wills’ are dealt with by our legal system.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Will, Trust and Estate Disputes