The recent decision in the case of Marley v Rawlings has sparked much debate.
Maureen and Alfred Rawlings prepared mirror wills in May 1999 intending to leave their estate to a Terry Michael Marley, who was not their blood relative but had been treated as their adopted son. Their two biological sons were to receive nothing.
Maureen Rawlings died in 2003 and Alfred Rawlings died in 2006. Upon the death of Alfred Rawlings, it was noticed by the sons that their parents had accidentally signed each other’s wills. The sons, therefore, claimed that the wills were invalid.
Had the will been found to be valid Mr Marley would have inherited £70,000. If it was found to be invalid, then the two sons would inherit the £70,000 under the rules of intestacy.
Mr Marley applied to the court to have the will rectified on the basis that it was Mr and Mrs Rawlings’ clear intention to leave their estate to him. The court found that the will did not comply with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 and it was not open to the court to rectify the will under section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982.
On Appeal in 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision.
Mr Marley appealed to the Supreme Court who overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision and ruled that the wills should be treated in the same way as a commercial contract and give effect to the intention of the parties.
The decision has given rise to concerns that it could result in a floodgate of cases being brought before the courts based on a “clerical error”.
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