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Will forgery – Who can claim?
A recent case may increase the number of potential claimants in a probate claim against a Will.
In Randall –v- Randall a husband and wife divorced. As part of the divorce settlement, Mr Randall was to receive half of any inheritance from Mrs Randall, aside from the first £100,000 which Mrs Randall was to receive outright.
Mrs Randall’s mother died and the Will, seemingly taking in to account this settlement, left Mrs Randall £100,000 precisely and the balance went to her children. This left Mr Randall some £75,000 out of pocket.
Mr Randall argued the Will was not a valid Will and brought a claim to challenge the provision. However, the rules for bringing claims say that you must have a direct interest in the Will itself. Because Mr Randall was not directly interested his former mother-in-law’s but a potential consequence of it a judge initially ruled that he could not proceed with his claim.
Mr Randall appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that, in this particular case, if he wasn’t able to challenge the Will, there was no one available to do so and the court was effectively unable to consider whether the Will was valid (Mrs Randall and the children were certainly not going to do so).
The Court of Appeal agreed with Mr Randall and has allowed him to proceed with his claim. They were particularly concerned about a potential scenario where a Will was clearly forged so as to defeat a resolution of a family dispute claim and there was no on legally able to challenge the provision.
The effect of this ruling may be to widen the definition of what it means to be interested in a Will. It will be interesting to see how this point develops.