Court clears up confusion caused by a homemade will

Many people are tempted to make a homemade will to save money but it can often lead to confusion and extra cost for grieving families, as in a recent case before the High Court.

It involved a man who left three houses, one in London, one in Cardiff and one it Montenegro, to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

However, the will failed to state which branch of the church was to benefit. There were several possibilities including the church headquarters in Serbia, a branch in Montenegro, and a church in London.

The High Court was called upon to make sense of the words the man had used when making the will.

Although he had been born in Montenegro, and still had family and property there, his connections with England and Wales at the time of his death were far more important. His other charitable gift was to a British charity and he chose English law to govern his succession.

In considering what his intention was in using the phrase “the Serbian Orthodox Church,” his strong connections to England and Wales and the fact that he had a particular affiliation with the Serbian Orthodox Church in London could be taken into account.

Therefore, the gift to “the Serbian Orthodox Church” was to the branch with which he was most closely connected, namely the Serbian Orthodox Church in London.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.


Cases featured

[2017] EWHC 2519 (Ch)


Ch D (Bristol) (Judge Paul Matthews) 10/10/2017