The Court of Appeal has granted a divorced husband permission to challenge the validity of his former mother-in-law’s will which left him nothing from her estate.
Randall v Randall centres on whether Colin Randall had ‘sufficient interest’ in the will to allow him to bring a claim alleging that it had been forged in an attempt to defeat an order made in divorce proceedings.
As part of a divorce settlement, his wife, Hilary Randall had agreed that if she inherited more than £100,000 from her mother, anything over £100,000 would be split equally between her and her husband.
After the mother died her will left £100,000 to Mrs Randall, and the balance of the estate of around £150,000 was left to the wife’s children.
When Mr Randall launched proceedings to challenge the validity of the will, Deputy Master Collaço Moraes said Randall did not have sufficient interest in the will and therefore had no standing to bring a claim.
And in the Court of Appeal, Mark Baxter, acting for Mrs Randall, argued that the only people who could challenge a will were those who had the right to administer the estate.
He said that as Mr Randall was not entitled to administer his mother-in-law’s estate, he was a ‘stranger to the estate’ and therefore did not have sufficient interest to bring a claim.
But master of the rolls Lord Dyson (pictured) ruled that ‘justice in the general sense requires the husband to bring a probate claim to set aside the will’, noting that the overriding interest set by the procedural code was to deal with cases justly.
He said that if Mr Randall did not have an interest in the estate there would have no other route by which he could challenge the validity of the will.
Dyson said: ‘If this claim did not fall within the probate jurisdiction but fell within the general jurisdiction of the court, it is obvious that [Mr Randall] would have a sufficient interest in the subject matter of this litigation to bring the claim.
‘He is not a mere busybody. He has a real interest in challenging the validity of the will.’
Lord Justice McCombe agreed, saying: ‘It appears to me to be highly unjust that if, in circumstances similar to the present, a will had been forged in an attempt to defeat an order made in divorce proceedings, the party affected could not challenge the validity of the will in probate proceedings.’
Lady Justice King also agreed.