fbpx

'Both' or 'Each'? – One Mistranscribed Word Triggers £6.4 Million Will Dispute

15th July 2021 By

Will drafting is an exact science, requiring years of professional training, and a single mischosen or out-of-place word can have very serious consequences. Exactly that happened in a High Court case concerning the mistaken use of the word ‘both’ – rather than ‘each’ – in a millionaire businessman’s will.

The businessman, whose estate was worth £6.4 million, was the main shareholder in a company in which his wife and a close friend and colleague – the beneficiaries – held minority stakes. By his will, he conferred power on his executors to allocate part of his shareholding to the beneficiaries so that ‘both’ of their shareholdings would amount to 26 per cent of the company’s issued share capital.

Following his death, an issue arose as to whether, on a true reading of the will, the executors were able to assign to the beneficiaries the number of shares required to bring each of their shareholdings up to 26 per cent of the total, or only so many shares as would bring their combined shareholdings to 26 per cent. Although that issue hinged on the interpretation of a single word, it was highly significant in money terms and had financial implications for a charity that was also a beneficiary of the will.

Ruling on the case, the Court found that the word ‘both’, as employed in the will, was ambiguous, both on its face and in the light of the surrounding circumstances. Viewed in context, the evidence established beyond doubt that the businessman’s intention was that each of the beneficiaries should have 26 per cent of the company.

The Court found that the use of the word ‘both’, rather than ‘each’, was a perfect clerical mistake, arising from a secretarial mistranscription. Given the Court’s interpretation of the will, however, it was unnecessary to engage the power of rectification to amend the document’s wording.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Challenge to Will's Validity Rejected by High Court

12th April, 2024 By

The best way to ensure your assets will be distributed as you wish is to have your will professionally drafted by a qualified solicitor. In a recent case, a challenge to the validity of an elderly man's will was dismissed by the High Court. The man had previously made a will in 2011, leaving most of his estate equally to his three children. In 2018, by which time one of his sons had predeceased him, he made a further will, leaving the residue of his estate to his other son...

Defiance of Family Court Orders Will Always End Badly

10th April, 2024 By

Custodial sentences very rarely come into play in the family courts. Where there have been repeated breaches of court orders, however, judges may have little choice but to clamp down. This was illustrated in the High Court during committal proceedings that stemmed from a child custody dispute. The background to the case involved contested proceedings between the father and mother of a young child. These concluded with a court order establishing that the child – a daughter – would live with the mother. Three months later the daughter travelled with...

Claim for SDLT Relief on Annex Unsuccessful

8th April, 2024 By

When buying a property consisting of more than one residence, it may be possible to claim multiple dwellings relief (MDR) against Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). However, there are certain conditions that must be met for an MDR claim to succeed, as a recent case illustrates. A property was purchased for £1.8 million. Prior to the purchase, the buyer had agreed with the seller that he would be allowed to carry out works to construct a self-contained annex at the property. The buyer's SDLT return included a claim for MDR...

Divorce – Alleged Bigamy Raised in Financial Remedies Dispute

5th April, 2024 By

The issue of bigamy and its potential impact on a person's ability to seek financial remedies in a divorce came under the legal spotlight recently. A husband made an application to strike out his wife's financial remedies claim on the basis that she had committed bigamy and deceived him into a marriage when she knew she was not free to marry. This deceit, he claimed, was so egregious that, as a matter of public policy, she should be debarred from pursuing any claim for financial remedies against him. The husband based...