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Marley V Rawlings: Supreme Court Fixes Spouses’ Mix Up

We reported on the Court of Appeal decision in Marley v Rawlings & Anor in 2012. The Supreme Court has now reversed the position by allowing rectification of the Rawlings’  mirror Wills.

Maureen and Alfred Rawlings were husband and wife. They had prepared Wills which were substantially the same. When the Wills were given to them to be signed and witnessed, Mr Rawlings signed Mrs Rawlings’ Will and Mrs Rawlings signed Mr Rawlings’ Will. The mistake arose from the manner in which the Wills were sent to them by their Solicitor. The Court of Appeal held in 2012, adopting a strict approach, that the Wills were invalid.

The Supreme Court, adopting a more practical approach, focused on the assumption that section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982 is intended to represent a rational and coherent basis for rectifying wills. In his speech, Lord Neuberger commented that “a mistake arising out of office work of a relatively routine nature, such as preparing, filing, sending, organising the execution of a document, can be fairly characterised as ‘clerical’”. On this basis, the Solicitor’s oversight resulting in the couple accidentally signing each other’s Will, should be treated as a “clerical error” as it arose in connection with office work of a routine nature.

If you are considering putting in place a Will or require further information, please contact Richard Monkcom, Roy Campbell or Helen Freely, Partners in Druces LLP’s Private Client team who will be able to assist.

This note does not constitute legal advice but is intended as general guidance only. It is based on the law in force in January 2014.

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