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Court corrects ‘unintended windfall’ error in man’s will

The High Court has corrected a clerical error in a man’s will that would have given his nephews and nieces an unintended windfall.

Patrick Joseph Kelly was born in Ireland but moved to England, where he remained until his death apart from visits to his family. He never married and had no children.

In 2010, he made a will in Ireland appointing his brother Vincent as executor and dividing his estate between his sister, his sister-in-law, his three brothers and the five children of his deceased sister “in equal shares absolutely”.

Mr Kelly died in England in 2014, leaving an estate in Ireland valued at £80,786 and an estate in England valued at £2,073,154.

His brother Vincent brought a claim to the High Court on the basis that the will contained a clerical error and that Mr Kelly had intended to divide his estate into six equal shares, one of which was divided between his sister’s children.

The court found in his favour. There was a contemporaneous handwritten note by the solicitor who took instructions for the will which clearly indicated Mr Kelly’s intention to divide his estate into six equal shares, five of those for his surviving siblings and the sixth to be divided between his sister’s children.

However, due to a clerical error, the will failed to name the individual beneficiaries of those shares and instead simply listed all 10 beneficiaries and added “in equal shares absolutely”.

The effect of that was to divide the estate into 10 shares instead of six and the nephews and nieces would receive a windfall.

The will was therefore rectified to reflect Mr Kelly’s intentions.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.