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Court Of Appeal Overturns Decision In ‘Deathbed Gift’ Case

Lawyers Say Issue Highlights Importance Of Updated Will


Specialist will dispute lawyers have said a Court of Appeal ruling which overturns a decision related to a woman leaving a property to her nephew is a reminder of the importance of making a comprehensive and clear will.

The case of King v Dubrey & Others (2014) concerned a woman who made a will in 1998 outlining that her estate should be left to friends and family, as well as several animal welfare charities including the PDSA.

Following her death in 2011 however, her nephew came forward claiming that the woman had spoken to him around six months before her death about her property worth £350,000 and said she would gift it to him.

In 2014, the High Court stated that the gift of the property should stand as the woman had invoked a donatio mortis causa – a gift made in contemplation of death. The decision meant therefore the charities and other beneficiaries would receive nothing.

However, the Court of Appeal has now unanimously reversed the decision, outlining that it could not be proved that the woman’s decision was made while contemplating her death.

Lord Justice Jackson added: “She was not suffering from a fatal illness. Nor was she about to undergo a dangerous operation or to undertake a dangerous journey. If June was dissatisfied with her existing Will and suddenly wished to leave everything to the claimant, the obvious thing for her to do was to go to her solicitors and make a new Will.”

According to specialist lawyers in Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Trust and Estate Dispute team, the case highlights how it remains important for people to always keep a will updated to reflect their wishes.

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