fbpx

Ambiguous Wills Are a Recipe for Strife – But the Law Can Bring Certainty

6th January 2023 By

Any ambiguity in your will creates a risk of strife amongst your loved ones after you are gone and that is one good reason why professional drafting is so important. As a High Court case showed, however, judges are adept at resolving uncertainty and discerning where a will writer’s true intentions lay.

By his will, a man bequeathed a recently built bungalow to his partner of many years. Attached to the will was a plan with an area shaded in red which purported to delineate the extent of the property. The shaded area encompassed the property’s walled garden. Crucially, however, a parking and turning area – the disputed land – which lay just beyond the wall was left unshaded.

His partner launched proceedings, asserting that he nevertheless intended to leave her the disputed land. Her claim was disputed by the man’s son, who was entitled to his residuary estate. He contended that the plan was entirely clear and excluded the disputed land from the partner’s inheritance.

Ruling on the matter, the High Court found that there was a conflict between the plan and the written description of the property in the will. Given that ambiguity, it was legitimate to consider extraneous evidence as to the man’s intentions. The question was what an objective person, in the position of the will writer at the moment of his death, would have considered that he was giving.

Resolving the issue in the partner’s favour, the Court found that, in the light of the property’s planning history, its physical features and other factors, a reasonable observer would consider that the disputed land formed part of the man’s intended bequest to her. That interpretation of the will accorded with binding assurances that he had given her prior to his death.

The Court granted a formal declaration that the bequest to the partner included the disputed land. It was not satisfied that her inheritance extended to part of a driveway giving access to the property. It ruled, however, that the man had intended to bequeath her a pedestrian and vehicular right of way over the driveway for all purposes.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Award That Requires Borrowing Made Into Court Order

17th May, 2024 By

Disagreements between separating couples all too often result in litigation that substantially reduces the assets available to them, as was illustrated by a case that recently reached the High Court. At issue was whether awards made by arbitrators in financial remedy proceedings can be made into court orders even if that would require one of the parties to borrow money. The couple had previously had a relationship lasting a few years before resuming their relationship in 2015. They had two children before separating again in 2019. Following their separation, the...

Inheritance Disputes – Costs Risks Can Be Reduced

15th May, 2024 By

Arguments about what someone promised before their death can lead to significant legal costs. However, if faced with a claim against the estate, there may be steps the beneficiaries or executors can take to reduce the risks, as a recent High Court case illustrated. A man had left a farmhouse and agricultural land in Cornwall to his wife, with whom he had also jointly owned a neighbouring area of land. After his death, one of the couple's daughters and her husband claimed that he had told them he wanted them...

Share Rounding Error Does Not Prevent CGT Relief

13th May, 2024 By

There are often very specific rules that must be complied with in order to claim tax reliefs, but if a small mistake arises, the courts may be able to provide assistance. In a recent case, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that an investor was entitled to Entrepreneurs' Relief on the disposal of his shares in a company, despite owning one share fewer than he needed to qualify for it. The investor had agreed to purchase 5 per cent of the shares in the company for £500,000. He wished to own...

Wife Entitled to Maintenance Until Sale of Family Home

10th May, 2024 By

When divorcing couples disagree on how assets should be divided, the courts will seek to arrive at a fair outcome for both parties. In deciding how the proceeds of sale of a former couple's home should be apportioned, the Family Court agreed with the wife that she should receive maintenance payments until the sale took place. The couple had married in 2006. Following a brief separation, they had reconciled for two years before finally separating in 2022. The husband and wife both contended that they should be entitled to about...