A landmark ruling from the Court of Appeal in the case of Randall v Randall has set the precedent for a divorced husband to challenge the validity of his former mother-in-law’s Will.
In 2006 Colin Randall and Hilary Randall divorced and they agreed under a consent order that if she inherited more than £100,000 from her mother she would keep up to £100,000, with the remainder of the estate split equally between them. Both parties accepted that this agreement could not bind Hilary Randall’s mother to any particular testamentary disposition.
Following the mother’s death, it was revealed that she had left exactly £100,000 to her daughter and a further £150,000 to the couple’s children.
The husband challenged the validity of the Will, alleging that it had not been validly executed in accordance with section 9 of the Wills Act 1937.
However, the wife’s legal team argued that the only people who could assert a right to administer the estate were those entitled to bring a contentious probate claim. As Mr Randall was not named as an executor under the Will, he was therefore not entitled to a share in the estate, and was also not a creditor of the estate, so did not have sufficient interest to bring the claim.
His challenge was therefore rejected on these grounds and he sought to challenge the decision at the Court of Appeal.
The appeal was allowed and the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, ruled that “justice in the general sense requires the husband to bring a probate claim to set aside the Will”. He added that if Mr Randall did not have an interest in the estate there was no other route by which he could challenge the validity of his late mother-in-law’s Will.
“If this claim did not fall within the probate jurisdiction, but instead fell within the general jurisdiction of the court, it is obvious that Mr Randall would have a sufficient interest in the subject matter of this litigation to bring the claim. He has a real interest in challenging the validity of the Will,” said Lord Dyson.
His colleague Lord Justice McCombe agreed. He said: “It appears to me to be highly unjust that if, in circumstances similar to the present, a Will had been forged in an attempt to defeat an order made in divorce proceedings, the party affected could not challenge the validity of the Will in probate proceedings.”
All three Lord Justices were in agreement that Mr Randall had the right to bring a probate claim to set aside the Will. This has set a new precedent that may allow those with ‘sufficient interest’ in an estate to bring a claim to challenge a Will that might ordinarily have been refused.