Witnesses Save the Day for Widow in Will Argument
A divorced man who remarried in his late 50s made a new will in 1998, one year after the marriage, which left his entire estate to his new wife.
After he died, a home-made will was discovered, made shortly before his death. This left virtually his entire estate to one of his sons, appointing the son and a grandson as executors. The witnesses to the will were the grandson’s girlfriend and her mother.
The man’s widow claimed that the will was a fake. It then emerged that the original of the first will could not be found and the witnesses had not signed it, only printed their names in capital letters.
A court hearing to decide which of the wills should prevail had concluded that the first will was invalid because it was not witnessed properly and the second was invalid because the circumstances meant that it was not ‘duly executed’ – the judge finding the witnesses ‘utterly unreliable’.
The good news for the widow was that the witnesses to the earlier will recalled its creation and were willing to give statements to the court that the attestation of the will had been carried out properly. On appeal, therefore, the Court of Appeal accepted the validity of the 1998 will.
One interesting aside was that the Court confirmed that a witness to a will printing their name is sufficient for the purpose: a formal signature is not needed. There is, however, less likelihood of a challenge if the usual signature is applied.