WILLS: Charles, Goddard and Thompson v Fraser [2010] EWHC 2154 (Ch)

27 OCT 2010

(Chancery Division; Mr Jonathan Gaunt QC sitting as a deputy judge of the Chancery Division; 11 August 2010)

Two sisters' left estates to each other in their wills, with very detailed provisions as to beneficiaries to benefit on the death of the survivor, each sister allocating half of the remaining assets. There was no specific statement in the wills as to whether it could be revoked, or to negate creation of any constructive or implied trust. However, the very detailed terms of the wills made little sense if the survivor was able to revoke her will on the death of a sister. The surviving sister revoked her reciprocal will. She then made a will in similar terms, leaving the beneficiaries of her sister's ‘share' unaltered but removed one of her own beneficiaries, added two beneficiaries to replace dead beneficiaries and changed specific shares of certain of her ‘own' beneficiaries. Possibly unwittingly, these changes changed the value of shares of her sister's beneficiaries and subsequently, aged 92, the survivor left the entire estate to one friend.

Held that effect should be given to the original will. There was considerable evidence of an agreement between the sisters that gifts on the death of the survivor were not to be changed.

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