Posted by Mike Muston, Senior Associate
Can a mistake in a Will be rectified?
If an individual has full mental capacity, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to alter their Will if they’ve made a mistake. But, what happens if the Will maker dies before the mistake is noticed? Can anything be done?
The law of ’rectification’
It may be possible to correct an error in a Will noticed after someone has died, but it will depend upon the mistake itself. If the error is just ‘clerical’, then it may be possible for the court to allow the Will to be corrected to meet the Will maker’s intentions. This could, for example, involve correcting a Will in which a misspelled name was used, or where the value of a gift was incorrect.
A ‘common sense’ approach
Until very recently, the meaning of what constitutes a ‘clerical error’ has been interpreted very narrowly. However, the approach of the courts appears to have changed, following a recent decision of the Supreme Court. The case considered whether Mr Marley should receive the inheritance left to him by his adoptive father, Mr Rawlings, despite the fact that the Will Mr Rawlings had signed some years previously, was, in fact, in the name of his wife. The mistake was only discovered after his death and it was found that it had resulted from a ‘silly mistake’ by a solicitor, who had handed Mr and Mrs Rawlings each other’s Wills.
Mr Marley was initially unsuccessful in his claim, after the High Court and the Court of Appeal found that, in signing his wife’s Will, Mr Rawlings Will was not valid.
However, the Supreme Court considered a more common sense approach. The leading judge found that it was only logical that an administrative error like this should be corrected, particularly where it was clear that Mr Rawlings wanted to make a gift to Mr Marley.
How does this affect you?
If either you or a family member notices an error in your Will, it is important you act quickly to have the mistake corrected. However, if, unfortunately, the mistake is not spotted until after death, there may still be hope for beneficiaries who may otherwise lose out, particularly following this case.
Our Inheritance and Trust Disputes team are experts in dealing with Will disputes, including issues involving the interpretation and rectification of Wills. If you have concerns about a Will, contact Mike Muston on 01225 730 100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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