The England and Wales High Court has set a new precedent with its judgment in the case of Mundil-Williams v Williams.
The case involved a Welsh farmer who died in September 2017 leaving four sons. He had been divorced many years previously, and his estate (valued at £983,000) primarily consisted of the family farm (valued at £700,000).
At the time the testator executed his Will in 2014, his eldest son had been a partner in the farming business for over 40 years and had taken over the practical running of it.
So why is this case so important?
In short, it is the first time that the England and Wales High Court has ruled a Will invalid due to a lack of knowledge and approval of its content. This ruling comes despite the testator giving verbal instructions to his solicitors and the Will being properly executed.
The instructions were given by the testator to a secretary of the law firm and were found to differ significantly from what was ultimately recorded in the Will by a paralegal at the firm.
The testator’s instructions were to grant an agricultural tenancy and a 62.4% share of the reversion to his eldest son. However, the instructions as recorded by the paralegal, meant that the eldest son would inherit the farm outright, while the other sons would receive only 12.5% of the residuary estate, which did not include the farm.
When reviewing the draft Will, the testator did not alert his solicitors to any errors contained within it and signed accordingly. After the testator’s death, one of the disinherited sons, Timothy Mundil-Williams, challenged the Will drawing attention to the fact that the will as drafted and executed did not reflect his father’s wishes as expressed both to his family and in his instructions to the solicitors. On that basis, he asked the court to void the will on grounds of lack of knowledge and approval.
Ultimately the court agreed with Timothy Mundil-Williams on the basis that the testator lacked the understanding required to validate and approve the Will’s contents.
The case brings to light the importance of ensuring accurate and understandable drafting of legal documents taking into consideration to intent of the testator, and providing an accurate summary of the Will’s clauses.
If you believe Else could help you with the drafting of your Will, you can contact our Wills & Probate Department via the details below. Our team will work closely with you and your family to ensure all parties have a detailed understanding of the documents and the intentions behind them.
It’s absolutely vital that you have full confidence and knowledge of what is contained in your Will, and our excellent team at Else will ensure this is the case.
To discuss how we can help you make a Will that meets your particular requirements, please contact Kathryn Caple via email email@example.com.