A recent case has highlighted the importance of accuracy and being sure that you fully understand what you have written when preparing your Will.
In the case, a scientist who helped to invent touch screen technology, Michael Crowley-Milling, caused a High Court battle due to the terminology in his Will.
The nuclear physicist, who died childless, left legacies to his carer and his brother’s children and grandchildren. He then left his wealth in ‘The United Kingdom’ to the world’s oldest scientific institution (a charity), The Royal Society. Unfortunately, he did not realise that the banks where he had put much of his money were in the Isle of Man and Jersey and although they are in the British Isles are not in the United Kingdom.
This resulted in a Court battle over his £1million pound offshore estate. His family laid claim to this and argued that a scientist would understand the meaning of the term ‘The United Kingdom.’ Although there was some evidence that he had fallen out with The Royal Society towards the end of his life, he had altered his Will as a result of this. The Courts, on this occasion, ruled in favour of the charity and said “Lawyers may understand the technical meaning of the term ‘United Kingdom’ but there is no evidence that laymen, even highly intelligent ones, would understand the difference between the UK, Great Britain and the British Isles.”
As you can see, the end result is what Michael Crowley-Milling intended but the poorly worded Will or his lack of understanding of the wording caused a delay in administering his estate and a costly Court battle that with proper legal advice should have avoided.
Getting legal advice would have ensured the correct wording of the Will and that Mr Crowley-Milling understood it.
For expert advice or assistance please contact Jane Forsyth.