A Family Disputing a Will – Could Mediation Have Helped?

Glass and notepadA judgement has recently been given by the Supreme Court in a case which involved a family disputing the Wills of their parents.  The case of Marley and Rawlings had been to the High Court and, just recently, the Supreme Court – so it obviously cost the family a considerable amount of money in legal fees.

Lord Neuberger gave judgement in the Supreme Court and said that the Wills of Maureen and Alfred Rawlings should not be invalidated simply because they had each incorrectly signed the other’s Will – he stated that it was obvious what the intention was meant to be and this should be effected.  Both Maureen and Alfred had left the entire estate to Terry Michael Marley who was not a blood relation.  The mistake came to light after Alfred Rawlings’ death and his two sons argued that their father’s Will was invalid because it had been signed by the wrong person (Maureen).  That meant his estate passed to them as the nearest relatives.

The case was first heard in 2012 in the High Court which had said that although the intention was obvious, the court did not have the power to rectify the Will, even though there was no doubt that the Rawlings had wanted Marley to inherit.  This meant that everything was to be passed to the sons.  This was completely changed by the recent judgement of the Supreme Court on the 22nd of January.  It stated that “whether the document in question is a commercial contract or a Will, the aim is to identify the intention of the party or parties to the document” and ensure that the intention was carried out.

In other words, what the Rawlings had wanted in their Wills still stood, despite the mix up over the signature.

The other point is, as I pointed out at the outset, that potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent by all the parties arguing over this – money which is now lost to the family.  It might have been a better idea to consider mediation and see if a compromise settlement could be reached without the huge sums being paid to lawyers.  An interesting point of law has been established but at a fairly considerable final financial cost to this particular family.

For more information or to discuss further please contact Nicky Gough on 07711 527968 or email info@cotswoldmediation.com.

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Mediating family fallouts after a death

It is not commonly realised that if you live with someone to whom you are not married, if you do not make a Will leaving your assets to them, then on your death they will not automatically receive anything from your estate.

Flowers in window - CroppedFamily arrangements are now increasingly complex.  People may have married and divorced, remarried or lived with somebody and they may have had children with a number of different partners;  so it is often not clear as to who “their children” are.  What happens when people die without a Will or without making their intentions clear?

If there is uncertainty, if it is not clear who is going to inherit, then families can, and often do, fall out.  Perhaps there is an unmarried partner – they will have a claim to part of the estate – obviously any children will also have a claim, and possibly children from a previous marriage will have a claim if they are still and young and dependant in any way.  What about a spouse or an ex-spouse?

If the person who dies is living with someone to whom they are not married then that person may expect to inherit the house, but under the Rules of Intestacy it may pass to children or other relatives.  Houses are valuable assets and are worth arguing over.  All the family members have different and competing interests.  If they all instruct Lawyers to argue their case and there is a possibility that the matter will go to Court then tens of thousands of pounds can be spent and those very assets that are in dispute are used up paying legal fees!

Ideally you should make a Will that sets out your intentions very clearly but if there is no Will or if there is still a dispute, then far better to consider mediation.

Mediation is very relevant when there are family fallouts and disputes about Wills or what is to happen to assets on death, just as it is relevant when people separate.  It is equally important to try and resolve differences without going to the Court and for all sides to reach an agreement that they can be happy with.  Otherwise a lot of money can be spent going to Court where an arbitrary decision is made which may suit no one.

Far better to mediate than to litigate.

For more information or to discuss further please contact Nicky Gough on 07711 527968 or email info@cotswoldmediation.com.

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