Court of Appeal rules mixed-up mirror wills are invalid – Has your Will been signed correctly?

The England & Wales Court of Appeal has confirmed that mirror wills executed by an elderly couple are void because each spouse accidentally signed the other’s will.

A decision in the case of Marley v Rawlings was made reluctantly because the couple Mr and Mrs Rawlings had clearly intended the Wills to take effect. Both Wills gave on first death their estate’s to the other spouse then on second death everything was to pass to their adopted son Mr Marley.

The wills were prepared by the couple’s solicitor and executed in his presence in 1999. But neither the solicitor nor the other witness (his secretary) noticed that the wrong wills had been signed.

Mrs Rawlings died in 2003, but it appears the mistake was not noticed then, probably because all the couple’s property was held jointly and so passed by survivorship without the need for probate. However, it was noticed on Mr. Rawlings’ death in 2006. The couple’s two natural sons pointed out that the wills were on the face of it improperly executed, and that therefore they had died intestate. This has led to the two Rawlings sons inheriting the part of the estate governed by the intestacy laws, amounting to £70,000.

Has your Will been signed and witnessed correctly?

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