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29th April 2021

Handwritten Will declared invalid after witness admits he did not see it being signed

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In the case of British University in Dubai v Ebrahimi (2021), Professor Robert Whalley handwrote a one-page Will two months before he died, leaving his entire £1.7 million estate to his old friend and colleague, Kambiz Ebrahimi and Mr Ebrahimi’s wife.

The Will was dated 3 May 2018 and had been witnessed by four people in total - two on 4 May 2018 on the front page of the Will, and two on 3 May 2018 on the back page. Although the first two witnesses both saw Professor Whalley sign the Will on 4 May 2018, they did so separately. This witnessing was therefore invalid as a Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, present at the same time.

However, the other two witnesses submitted affidavits to the Court confirming that the Will had been properly executed by Professor Whalley in the presence of both of them on 3 May 2018 and probate was granted as a result in February 2019.

The Will was then challenged by the British University in Dubai, the main beneficiary under the testator’s previous Will made in 2012.  The University alleged that the signatures on the back page dated 3 May 2018 had been added later to pretend that the Will had been validly executed on this day.

When the High Court asked the two back page witnesses whether the contents of their affidavits were true, one of the witnesses admitted that he had lied and that no such meeting had taken place on 3 May 2018. The Court therefore found in favour of the British University in Dubai and deemed the 2018 Will invalid. Mr Ebrahimi and his wife missed out.

This case demonstrates the importance of a Will being executed in accordance with the required legal formalities to prevent costly challenges arising in the future. If you would like to speak to a solicitor about making a valid Will which fully reflects your wishes, please contact Elizabeth Herbert or Alexandra Svennevik.

Case citation: British University in Dubai v Ebrahimi [2021] EWHC 757 Ch