Short-Circuiting The Allocation Of Costs In Marley v Rawlings [2014] UKSC 51

On 18 September 2014, Lord Neuberger of the Supreme Court handed down his judgment (with whom Lords Clarke, Sumption, Carnwath and Hodge agreed) in relation to how the costs of the proceedings should be allocated following the Supreme Court's landmark judgment overturning the High Court and Court of Appeal's decisions in the case of Marley v Rawlings [2014] UKSC 2.

The Facts

The case of Marley v Rawlings concerned the execution of Mr & Mrs Rawlings' wills. Mr & Mrs Rawlings instructed their solicitor to prepare simple mirror wills for them which would benefit the survivor of them and thereafter, Mr Marley who they treated as an adopted son. The wills excluded their two biological sons leaving nothing to them. However, on Mr Rawlings death (his wife having predeceased him) it was discovered that when the solicitor attended the couple's home to execute the wills, he mistakenly handed Mr Rawlings' will to his wife to sign, and vice versa and the couple therefore inadvertently signed each other's wills.

This discovery lead to the couple's sons seeking to challenge the validity of Mr Rawlings' will, as if it were held to be invalid they would benefit through the intestacy rules. Mr Marley commenced probate proceedings seeking to rectify the will and seeking probate to be granted of the rectified will.

Mr Marley's claim was dismissed at first instance, in the High Court by Proudman J on the grounds that (i) the will did not satisfy the formalities laid down in section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 ("the Wills Act") and (ii) even if it had done so, it was not open to her to rectify the will (on the basis that the error was not one of a "clerical" nature) under section 20 Administration of Justice Act 1982.

Mr Marley appealed to the Court of Appeal, who upheld Proudman J's decision on the first ground (that the will failed to comply with the Wills Act formalities), and so found it unnecessary to consider the point on rectification. Mr Marley then appealed to the Supreme Court which overturned this decision, finding that (i) Mr Rawlings' will did in fact satisfy the formalities of the Wills Act so as to be a "will" within the scope of section 20 and (ii) that it could be rectified to allow the deceased couple's testamentary wishes to come in to effect. Further details of the Supreme Court's landmark judgment can be found here. All that remained was for the Supreme Court to consider the allocation of costs in the proceedings.


As Lord Neuberger...

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