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Case digest: Scarfe v Matthews

Joseph Goldsmith queries whether the case of Bernard Matthews’ will heralds a move towards assessing a testator’s intention on the basis of an implied term

10 October 2012

Following the death of Bernard Matthews, the famous turkey farmer, a dispute arose in relation to his estate that, perhaps unsurprisingly, was reported in the national newspapers.

The focus of those reports was on the fact that Mr Matthews’ children had chosen to thwart his intention that his villa in the south of France called Villa Bolinha be left to his partner of twenty years, Odile Marteyn (Odile). Despite the popular interest, this was not of legal significance. It merely involved the exercise of forced heirship rights under French law.

Having exercised these rights, a question arose as to how the French tax payable in respect of Villa Bolinha was to borne. The answer to that question, which came before Mr Nicholas Strauss QC (sitting as a deputy High Court judge), turned on the construction of Mr Matthews’ will and on whether one could read an implied term into...

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