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High Court Breaks Deadlock in Novel Will Dispute

In the case below, it appears that the deceased, used to own land.  When she owned the land, she had a will (or several wills) drafted and executed, all of which left the land to her godson.

The land was then compulsorily purchased.  At the point of purchase, the land no longer belonged to the the deceased and therefore, could not be bequeathed in her will.

At death, there were payments outstanding for the land.  The court rightly held that these payments were not for the godson (only the land was and that was no longer owned by the deceased and therefore that gift failed).  The money therefore formed part of the residual estate. 

Twenty-four years after farmland was compulsorily acquired to make way for a new motorway, a judge has ruled on the correct destination of compensation payable by the Department for Transport. The case raised novel issues of particular interest to wills and probate professionals.

The land was acquired in 1993 to enable the construction of the road, which opened to traffic in 1997. Its owner had received interim compensation payments but more than £90,000 remained outstanding at her death. She had executed a number of wills over the years, all of which left the land to her godson. Her final will bequeathed the residue of her estate to three cousins.

In those circumstances, the executors of the will sought judicial guidance as to whether the money should pass to the godson, as inheritor of the land, or to the cousins, as residuary beneficiaries. In ruling in favour of the latter course, the judge rejected arguments that the owner could be taken as having intended a gift of the money to her godson. On a true interpretation of the will, no such intention could be discerned and the money thus fell into the residue of the estate.

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MLA 2017 18 Shortlisted 2