The Court of Appeal recently heard a case about just that – what was the effect of the wrong person signing the Will? In 1999 Mr and Mrs Alfred Thomas Rawlings signed mirror Wills leaving their joint estate to one another or, when they were both dead, to Terry Michael Marley – who was not related to them, but whom they had treated as their adopted son.
However, what happened was that Mr Rawlings mistakenly signed the Will that was meant for his wife and she signed the Will that was in his name. Nobody noticed the error at the time and it was not until Mr Rawlings, having survived his wife by three years, died in August 2006 that the error came to light.
A dispute then arose between Marley and the Rawlings’ two natural sons who argued that their father’s Will, as it was signed by the wrong person, was invalid.
If the Will was invalid, then in effect Mr Rawlings died intestate and this is what the court ruled. So Mr Rawlings, having died intestate, his estate (which was £70,000) went to his natural sons.
So, not only should you make a Will, but you should also make sure it is signed correctly! I think too that this case indicates that what people think is “fair” is not always what the courts will decide is the correct legal approach. I am often confronted by people in divorce cases who want a “fair” separation – but the courts will rule according to set criteria, as in this case. The Will was invalid, therefore the Rules of Intestacy apply, regardless of what was clearly the intention of Mr and Mrs Rawlings.