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It may seem obvious that, when signing your will, you should carefully read it through to ensure that it accurately reflects your wishes. However, one man’s failure to do just that triggered a High Court dispute between his children and step-children.
The twice-married widower and RAF veteran owned a house valued at £145,000 and residual assets worth about £80,000. He executed a will more than 25 years before his death at the age of 88. On the face of it, the documents left his entire estate to his two step-children and disinherited his own two offspring.
His natural children launched proceedings, seeking rectification of his will. The step-children accepted that the will did not reflect his true wishes in respect of the house and that it should be inherited by his children. However, they argued that he had intended to leave them the residual assets.
Following a close analysis of relationships within the family and extraneous evidence which cast light on the man’s intentions, the Court declined to rectify that part of the will by which he left his residual estate to his step-children. It was possible that he had intended to benefit them in recognition of the financial contributions made by their mother, his second wife. The ruling meant that, whilst the children would inherit his house, the step-children would receive his other assets.