Husband’s ‘torn up’ will disinheriting wife is allowed to stand

A wife who claimed her husband tore up a will that left her nothing has lost her legal battle to inherit his estate.

The case involved an elderly Ukrainian man who made the will in 2010, a couple of years before he died and one year after his second marriage. The will left his estate to his grandchildren from a previous relationship.

The court heard that the marriage had been partly a matter of convenience because the wife had overstayed her right of residence in the UK. However, she and her husband had lived together for a few years before the marriage and were in a sexual relationship.

She did not dispute that the will had been made, but maintained that her husband had torn up the will in front of her during an argument in 2012, shortly before his death. She said that he had destroyed it with the intention of revoking it and making a replacement will in favour of her.

She had arranged for solicitors to visit him in hospital a couple of months later, but he died before the new will was signed.

After his death, the wife proceeded on the basis that he had died without any effective will in place and that his estate should pass to her.

The executors did not believe that the husband had destroyed the will. They gave evidence that he had continued to tell them up until two weeks before he died that his grandchildren were the main beneficiaries.

They also relied on the fact that the wife did not refer to the destruction of the will until 18 months after the death.

The court found in favour of the executors. It held that on the balance of probabilities, the husband had not destroyed the will. Even if the wife’s evidence to the contrary had been accepted, the court would have found that the husband destroyed it only to bring a row to an end, not with the intention of revoking it.

It was unlikely that the deceased would have concealed from his executors the fact that he had torn up the will, especially if he had genuinely wanted his wife to inherit.

The husband’s will in favour of his grandchildren was allowed to stand.

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[2016] EWHC 114 (Ch)
Ch D (Master Teverson) 25/01/2016