Biscoes today successfully represented and defeated a claim brought against their client, one of the Defendants and the Executor/one of the main residuary beneficiaries of the Estate in a claim brought against our client’s late mother’s Estate in the High Court Chancery Division.
The claim/dispute brought by the unsuccessful Claimant was in respect of the interpretation of a specific clause in the deceased Will and in particular the meaning of the words used in the disputed clause of the Will and specifically the meaning of the words “my wife” followed by the wife’s name (not referred to prevent identification). It was contended on behalf of the claimant that she as the wife of her deceased husband should share in the residuary estate of her late mother-in-law rather than the her deceased husband’s first wife to whom he was married at the time that his mother drafted her Will in 2009.
It was argued on behalf of our client that the Court should adopt the natural and common sense meaning of the words used in the disputed clause and we sought to rely upon the principle set out in Marley -v- Rawlings  UKSC 2 and the further principles set out in Arnold and Britton  UK UKSC 36.
The court agreed with the case put on behalf of our client and the other defendants, who made similar arguments, dismissing the claim, the court ruled that the words used within the disputed Will were clear and unambiguous and that the court should take into account the facts known at the time that the deceased made the Will i.e. to put itself in the armchair of the deceased at the time the Will was prepared.
The matter concluded today following a day and a half trial in the High Court. In addition to dismissing the Claimant’s case the Claimant was ordered to pay the costs of all three Defendants ordering the Claimant to pay our client’s costs based upon an open offer which we had made upon our client’s behalf shortly after the issue of proceedings, which the Deputy Master who heard the case said was ‘a reasonable offer which the Claimant should have accepted in light of his judgment’.
This case highlights the need to ensure that a will may need be updated or changed if life changing events occur and that a court will also seek to interpret the Will on the following basis: -
- The natural and ordinary meaning of the words
- The overall purpose of the document
- Any other provisions of the document
- The facts known or assumed by the Testator at the time the Will was executed
- Common sense.
For further information upon this case or for any advice on a dispute will or estate please contact Kevin
Richardson at our North End, Portsmouth office 0800 413 463 or by e-mail
Alternatively, please contact my colleagues in our private client department if you need to make your first will or perhaps your will requires updating.