You are the Judge – wills law


The second scenario in our You are the Judge series is a situation in which a person's wishes in their will can't be realised in the real life situation. There is the strong possibility that it will be disputed.

What do you think the correct answer is in this situation?


Old Mrs Parker has passed away after a long illness.

At the time of her death, she owned two houses. Her will stipulates that her oldest grandchild, Stephanie, can choose which of the houses she wants, and her sister Diane can have the remaining property.

The rest of her estate will go to her grand-nephew, Tarquin.

Unfortunately, while Mrs Parker was in hospital, Stephanie was killed in a car accident. By this time, Mrs Parker was in a coma, and could not amend her will.

What should happen to the houses?

The answer

Both houses will go to Tarquin.

This might seem very unfair on Diane, but it is not possible to be certain which of the houses Stephanie would have chosen. When there is uncertainty about a clause in a will, the law will not try to guess what the deceased wanted to happen, and the property reverts back to the estate. This rule is derived from the case of Boyce v Boyce (1849) 16 Sim 476.

It's a great example of why wills should always be treated with the utmost respect, and why a professional opinion is so important. Whilst Mrs Parker's original will might have seemed foolproof, a simple scenario has resulted in a patently unfair situation. Make sure your estate is passed on exactly as you wish.

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