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  • Court of Appeal Overturns ‘Death-bed Gift’ Legacy in Landmark Judgment
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Court of Appeal Overturns ‘Death-bed Gift’ Legacy in Landmark Judgment

Earlier this week the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court judgment that a man could inherit his aunt’s £350,000 Hertfordshire home despite her leaving it in her will to seven animal charities.

In this landmark legacy case the charities named in the late aunt’s will – Redwings, the Chilterns Dog Rescue Society, the Blue Cross, the PDSA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Donkey Sanctuary and World Animal Protection – will now be restored as beneficiaries.

In July, the High Court found in favour of Kenneth King under the legal doctrine known as donatio mortis causa (death-bed gift). King claimed he was given the house as a death-bed gift by his aunt, June Fairbrother, in April 2011. Deputy Judge Charles Hollander said he believed that Fairbrother told King to look after her pets in the house and left him the property as a death-bed gift.

Redwings and the Chilterns Dog Rescue society appealed this ruling. The Court of Appeal ruled on 9th June that allowing June Fairbrother’s will to be overturned by the death-bed pledge would have bypassed all the safeguards provided by the Wills Act and the Law of Property Act.

In summing up Lord Justice Jackson said: “In my view, it cannot be said that June was contemplating her impending death at the relevant time. If June was dissatisfied with her existing will and suddenly wished to leave everything to the claimant, the obvious thing for her to do was to go to her solicitors and make a new will.”

This judgment once again emphasises the importance of making a properly valid will so that you can be assured that your wishes will be carried out.

For further advice on contested probate and inheritance claims contact Andrew Watson.

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Before relying on this commentary please read the Reliance on information posted section in our Terms of Website Use in our Legal section. Please note that specialist advice should be taken in relation to any specific queries and the information above is provided for general information purposes only.

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