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26th March 2021

High Court rules Will invalid following a paralegal’s drafting error

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In the recent case of Mundil-Williams v Williams, the High Court ruled that a Will was invalid because the testator (a Welsh farmer) lacked knowledge and approval of its contents.

The testator died in 2017 leaving four sons. His estate (value £983,000) primarily consisted of the family farm (value £700,000). The testator’s eldest son had been a partner in the farming business and had taken over the practical running of it by the time the testator executed his Will in 2014.

The instructions given by the testator to a secretary of the law firm , differed significantly from what was ultimately recorded in the Will by a paralegal at the firm. The testator’s instructions were to grant the agricultural tenancy and a 62.4% share of the reversion to his eldest son. However, the instructions as recorded by the paralegal, meant that the eldest son would inherit the farm outright, while the other sons would receive only 12.5% of the residuary estate, which did not include the farm.

The testator did not flag any errors when reviewing the draft Will before executing the same in 2014. One of the testator’s disinherited sons challenged the Will on the basis that the Will as drafted did not reflect the testator’s express wishes. The Court decided that the testator did not appreciate that under the Will, the family farm was not part of the residuary estate and would go entirely to his eldest son. The Deceased therefore lacked knowledge and approval of its contents. Rather than render the Will void, the Court used its powers to amend the Will more in line with the testator’s intentions.

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Case citation: Mundil-Williams v Williams [2021] EWHC 586 (Ch D)