I have written about this before, and no doubt I will write about it again! This case came before Ms. Justice Siobhán Stack and her Decision was delivered on the 3rd July 2023 in the case of Adrienne Goodwin, Patricia Kennedy and Martin Kennedy Plaintiffs and Brendan Mary Murphy Defendant (In the matter of the Succession Act 1965 and in the matter of the Estate of William John Murphy otherwise Seán Murphy Deceased)  IEHC 383 Record No: 2022/104SP, where the Judge was required to adjudicate on the Will of the late Sean Murphy (the deceased) which had been drawn from a template downloaded from the internet by his niece Fiona Murphy.
It seems that the deceased was a very private person and, despite being advised by his niece Fiona Murphy to go to a Solicitor to prepare his Will, he refused to so and requested her assistance in drawing up his Will. She googled something along the lines of “homemade wills” and downloaded an online template. Based on that template, Ms. Murphy assisted the deceased in finalising his Will. The Judge noted that unfortunately the template was not particularly well drafted, and this had given rise to difficulties in interpretation of the Will.
“No Consent Provision”
The Judge instanced the fact that there was a Clause 15 in the Will which recorded:
“If any beneficiary under this Will contests in any court any of the provisions of this Will, then each and all such persons shall not be entitled to any devises, legacies, bequests, or benefits under this Will or any codicil hereto, and such interests or share in in my estate shall be disposed of if that contesting beneficiary had not survived me”.
As a preliminary point, the Judge commented that it was likely that Clause 15 of the Will was void as being contrary to public policy, as Part X of the Succession Act 1965 demonstrates an intention on the part of the Oireachtas to protect the rights afforded to spouses, civil partners, and children, and, although on the facts of this case there were no such persons, the 1965 Act appears to provide for a comprehensive statutory code as to when the freedom of the testator can be overridden.
Clearly, the inclusion of such a “no contest provision” demonstrated the dangers out there for any non-lawyer who sees fit to download template Wills from the internet, which may have some legal basis in some jurisdiction in the world but are clearly in contradiction of the provisions of the Irish Succession Act.
Ruling on Will
Without going into the provisions of the Will or the Judge’s reasoning (all of this is very clearly detailed in the Judge’s decision), as it happens, the Judge did not find the Will void for uncertainty and she made a ruling as to the intention of the deceased. Had she done otherwise, the deceased would have been deemed to have died intestate and his Estate would have been distributed in accordance with the laws of Intestacy.
The Judge found that in this instance she was able to rely on the evidence given by the niece Fiona Murphy as to the circumstances in which the Will was made and the deceased’s intentions. The Judge commented that, had she not been able to do so, she could have come to a different decision.
In the earlier part of her Judgment the Judge commented that it is inevitably the case that difficulties of interpretation of Wills are more likely to arise in the case of homemade Wills. She stressed that the public should ensure that they, not only make a Will, but that they take professional advice in so doing, in order to ensure that their intentions are carried out after their death.
Even though, in this instance, the Judge found the Will to be valid the use of the internet-sourced template had significantly reduced the assets available for distribution to the beneficiaries under the Will, as obviously substantial Costs had been incurred by the parties in bringing this Construction Summons before the Court.
A Word of Warning – but will anyone listen!
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