10 June 2016 #Private Client
In the recent case of Randall v Randall  EWCA Civ 494 the Court of Appeal has defined the class of persons able to bring claims challenging the validity of Wills. In the case in question, a husband agreed with his ex-wife as part of their divorce proceedings that if his mother-in-law passed away, leaving more than £100,000 to the ex-wife by her Will, then the ex-wife would share any sum exceeding this with the husband.
When the mother-in-law passed away, the ex-wife was left exactly £100,000 by the mother-in-law’s Will, with the remainder of the estate passing to her children. On this basis nothing was shared with the husband. The husband sought to challenge the validity of the Will on the basis that it was not signed in accordance with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.
The husband was unsuccessful in the High Court on the basis that he did not have sufficient standing to bring a contentious probate claim - as he did not have a sufficient “interest” in the estate as is required by part 57 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The husband challenged the High Court’s decision in the Court of Appeal, which overturned the High Court’s decision. In particular, the Court of Appeal applied a broad interpretation to the term “interest”.
The Court of Appeal interpreted “interest” as requiring the claimant to demonstrate only a “clear and accepted financial interest in the outcome” or a “real interest in challenging the validity of the will”. It felt it would be unjust to prevent someone from challenging a potentially invalid testamentary disposition created for what appeared to be the sole purpose of defeating an order made in divorce proceedings.
As with a number of other recent cases involving challenges to Wills, this case illustrates how important it is to take professional advice when preparing a Will, not only with regards to the wording of the Will, but also with regards to the procedure of signing the Will to ensure it is a valid testamentary disposition.
If you are considering making a new Will or even amending your existing Will, please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced private client team who will be able to successfully guide you through the process avoiding the pitfalls along the way.