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  1. Wealth
February 2, 2012

Appeal denied in Terry Marley case of mis-signed wills

By Spear's

A man disinherited because his adoptive parents signed each other’s wills in error will not be able to receive any of their fortune, the Court of Appeal rules

A man disinherited because his adoptive parents signed each other’s wills in error will not be able to receive any of their fortune, the Court of Appeal rules


Background: A simple administrative error in the signing of wills left Terry Marley at war with his adoptive brothers over who should rightfully inherit their parents’ fortune. Last year, the High Court followed the strict interpretation of the law and declared the wills invalid, leaving the couple’s £70,000 fortune to their two sons, instead of Mr Marley, as intended. The case highlighted the potentially disastrous outcomes when a will is not properly executed.

Mr and Mrs Rawlings had made mirror wills in 1999, but the documents were switched prior to execution and, in error, each signed the other’s will. This was not picked up until Mr Rawlings died in 2006 and the mistake meant that the couple effectively died intestate.

While Terry Marley was never formally adopted by the family, he was treated very much as a son by the Rawlingses. He had lived with the couple in their family home since 1975 and was their sole carer until they both died. The wills left everything to the surviving spouse and then to Mr Marley on the second death, effectively disinheriting the Rawlingses two natural sons.

Irene McMillan, a solicitor at Kingsley Napley LLP, says: “Today’s decision is disappointing. The courts seem unwilling to step outside the letter of law when judging highly emotive cases involving inheritance. It is obvious that the wills were signed in error and that the couple’s intentions were absolutely clear. This case cried out for a pragmatic decision but, sadly for Mr Marley, it was not to be.”

Read Spear’s original article on the Terry Marley case here

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