One of the golden rules of writing a Will is to make sure the signature belongs to the person making the Will and they signed in the presence of two witnesses. In addition, either witness cannot be a beneficiary. I have seen several Wills where these rules were not correctly carried out, resulting in disappointed beneficiaries.
However, Mr Justice Vos broke new legal ground last week by honouring a Will despite it being signed by the testator’s sister, who also was the beneficiary to the £300,000 estate. He ruled that the Will represented the intentions of Mr Lavin, even though what appeared to be his signature was in fact that of his sister, Mrs Liston.
Mr Lavin received his Will just three hours before he died, but he was too ill to sign it and Mrs Liston stepped in.
Mr Justice Vos was satisfied that Mr Lavin knew and approved the content of the Will, but stated that it was ‘plainly undesirable that beneficiaries should be permitted to execute a Will in their own favour’.
Mr Lavin had fourteen brothers and sisters, but he was closest to Mrs Liston. To complicate matters further, Mrs Liston died ten months after Mr Lavin. It was at that point one of his nephews challenged Mr Lavin’s Will.
Mrs Liston’s daughter steadfastly maintained that her mother did not play any untoward part in signing Mr Lavin’s Will. A nurse, who was present at the signing of the Will, verified this.
Mr Justice Vos originally found in favour of the nephew, but the Court of Appeal overturned his decision. Evidence satisfied the court that the signature did not belong to Mr Lavin, but he was satisfied that Mr Lavin must have had full control of his mental faculties and wanted Mrs Liston to inherit. ‘To overrule his wishes because it was not his signature on the Will would be a denial of justice’, Mr Justice Vos said.
He acknowledged that it was not usual for a beneficiary to sign a Will on behalf of the testator, but because he was too weak to write his own signature, he directed Mrs Liston to assist him by doing so on his behalf.
I want to know where the Willwriter was at the time the Will was supposed to be signed. In fact was there a Willwriter or was it a do it yourself Will? This case highlights what can go wrong by not following correct procedures. All members of the
are required to supervise the execution of a Will, precisely due to fundamental errors such as this! Institute of Professional Willwriters
Let this be a lesson to all the ‘do it yourself’ Willwriters who think they are saving a few pounds by buying a kit from WH Smith or going on line. It makes me so angry!