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Widening the margin of error

Has the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to future litigation following its ruling on clerical mistakes, asks Matthew Duncan

17 March 2014

A testator's 'intention' is paramount when interpreting a will and rectification can be used to correct a clerical error, even if that involves rewriting the entire testamentary document. The Supreme Court's recent ruling in the case of Marley v Rawlings has shown that.

Alfred and Maureen Rawlings made mirror wills in 1999, each leaving everything to the other on the first death and then to Terry Marley on the second death. Marley had lived with the couple since 1975 and had cared for them in their later years. Although he was never formally adopted, he was treated as a son by the family. The Rawlings' two biological sons, from whom they were estranged, were effectively disinherited from their parents' estate.

The couple's solicitor and his secretary attended their home to deal with the execution of the wills. However, the documents were switched in error prior to signature, so Alfred and Maureen signed each other's will, wi...

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