Supreme Court Upholds Will Signed in Error

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has rectified the will of a man who signed his wife's will by mistake.

Alfred and Maureen Rawlings made mirror wills in 1999. Each of them left their estate to the other spouse or, if the other spouse did not survive them by one month, to Terry Marley, whom the couple had treated as their son. The couple’s two natural sons did not benefit under the wills.

The couple accidentally signed each other’s wills. Mrs Rawlings died in 2003, but the mistake went unnoticed until Mr Rawlings’ death in 2006. The property in which Mr Rawlings and Mr Marley had lived passed to Mr Marley by way of survivorship. However, Mr and Mrs Rawlings’ two natural sons argued that Mr Rawlings’ will was invalid and he had thus died intestate. The remaining estate assets, amounting to some £70,000, would thus pass to the sons under the intestacy laws.

Mr Marley sought rectification of the will. The High Court, and subsequently the Court of Appeal, declined to rectify the will, concluding that the law could not be understood as permitting rectification in such circumstances. However, the Supreme Court has now overturned this decision. Mr Marley will therefore inherit the entirety of the couple’s estate.

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