Rectifying an incorrectly signed Will

The UK Supreme Court ruled last week that the Will of a man who had signed his wife’s identical Will by mistake could be rectified after his death. It is an unusual case, which highlights the need to take care with the formalities of making a Will.

The case concerned a Mr and Mrs Rawlings, who signed their Wills in 1999, leaving everything to each other and, if the other had died first, to a man they apparently treated as a son, a Mr Terry Marley.

The Wills were identical, apart from the details about the maker of the Will, but there was a mix up on the day that they were actually signed – so that Mr Rawlings signed his wife’s Will and she signed his. The mistake was not discovered when Mrs Rawlings died and only came to light on Mr Rawlings subsequent death.

The Rawlings’ two sons then challenged it – arguing that it was invalid and the estate should be treated as intestate. If successful this challenge would have meant that they inherited everything.

Terry Marley disputed the case and it eventually ended up in the Supreme Court.

The Court found that Mr Rawlings had signed the Will and that he did so with the intention of it being his last Will and Testament. It therefore fell within the requirements of the relevant Act and could be rectified.

The Will was therefore valid and the estate could be distributed under its terms.

The case is an English one but Lord Hodge, considering the Scottish position, said that he saw no reason in principle why, under Scottish law, the remedy of partial reduction and declarator should not be available to cure defective expression in a Will. This would effectively give the same outcome.

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