One of the very many advantages of having your will professionally drafted is that, if the original document goes missing, solicitors can be relied upon to have kept a copy. In a High Court case on point, a law firm’s carefully kept archive proved decisive in resolving an inheritance dispute that tore apart a farming family.
Following a farmer’s death, his widow asserted that his will was found in a locked suitcase under his bed. Although the document was subsequently mislaid, she obtained a copy from the law firm that drafted it. She and her son, who were the principal beneficiaries of the will, applied to have the copy admitted to probate.
Their application was resisted by the farmer’s three daughters, who disputed the widow’s claim that the original will was still in existence when their father died. They pointed out that, where a will cannot be found following a person’s death, there is a legal presumption that it has been deliberately destroyed and, thereby, revoked.
Upholding the application, however, the Court was satisfied that a will in the same form as the copy document had been duly executed by the farmer, under the law firm’s guidance. There was nothing in the entirely explicable loss of the original document to excite suspicion and the Court accepted that it remained in the suitcase, unrevoked, when he died.
The terms of the copy document were unsurprising and conformed to the daughters’ own understanding of what their father’s will was likely to contain. There was no real reason for him to have revoked a will that was made only five years prior to his death. Given that the copy had been provided by the law firm that drafted the original document, there could be no doubt that it was genuine.