In January 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled that the purported mirror wills made by Mr and Mrs Rawlings were to be executed as per their wishes.
The court case began in 2006 when it was established that both Mr and Mrs Rawlings had signed the incorrect will, they had signed each other’s will, leaving both wills invalid. The mirror wills had sought to exclude the Rawlings’ own two sons and to benefit Mr Marley, who they treated as their adopted son.
Mrs Rawlings died in 2003, but it was only after Mr Rawlings died in 2006 that the mistake was noticed. The Rawlings’ two sons contested the wills and the estate was locked up in a legal battle for eight years.
The ruling has now allowed justice to prevail; the testator’s wishes can be followed. However, given that the mistake was only identified in 2006, after the death of the second spouse, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2014, this case shows the importance of following formalities to ensure that your will is valid.
In 1947, a British man living in Belgium made a will in which he stated that he only wanted this will to cover his Belgium assets. In 1949, he made another will in the UK and this will used a “standard clause” which states, “I revoke all previous wills”. However, the 1949 will also specifies that it is only intended to deal with the UK assets.
So, rather than having two separate wills - one for Belgium assets made in 1947 and one for UK assets made in 1949 - when he died, he only had one will in operation, namely the UK one. It was pretty obvious that he had not intended to revoke his Belgian will, as his UK will clearly states that the will was only intended to cover his UK assets, but the use of the standard clause resulted in a lengthy dispute that could have been avoided through better wording.
In the end, it was held that the testator had no intention of revoking his previous Belgian will, the revocation clause was only to revoke his previous English will and justice won out.
We deal with foreign wills all the time and our consultants will make sure that your revocation clause is worded properly, so that you don’t end up revoking a former will by mistake.