On 22nd January 2014, the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in the case of Marley v Rawlings.
The Supreme Court held that the Will should be rectified despite not being correctly executed. This decision surprised the legal community and overturned the High Court and later Court of Appeal decisions, which went the other way.
In this case, Mr and Mrs Rawlings asked their solicitors to draw up mirror image Wills. The Wills themselves were correctly drafted but unfortunately, when they went to sign the Wills, they each signed the wrong one. This was only noticed after Mr Rawlings’ death (despite the fact that Mrs Rawlings had died some years earlier). In this case, the effect of rectifying the will was to disinherit the testator’s two sons in favour of a close friend who was treated as a child of the family. Had the will not been rectified, the intestacy rules would have applied and the sons would have inherited.
The Supreme Court felt that the statutory rules, which allow a Will to be rectified where there has been a clerical error, should apply not only to valid Wills, but also to documents that were intended to be a Will. When the error in execution was rectified that document would then become a legal effective Will.
This is important because the rules on formal execution of a will had always been strictly applied. Now it seems that that is not the case.
Is it possible now that any document intended to be give away property after death might become a binding will? Doubtless, the Court will only apply the new rule in limited circumstances. What is sure is that a lot more cases will be brought to Court, where there has been a mistake in the execution of a Will.