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‘Holograph Will’ thrown out of court after witnessing errors

A ‘holograph Will’ has been thrown out of court after a beneficiary named in a previous Will alleged foul play.

The case – which was heard by the High Court of England and Wales in March – centres around the Last Will and Testament of Robert Whalley, a former British naval officer and Professor at the British University in Dubai and Loughborough University.

Mr Whalley passed away in July 2018, leaving the entirety of his £1.7 million estate to fellow alumni professor Kambiz Ebrahimi, of the Loughborough University, and his wife.

However, his 2018 ‘holograph Will’ was challenged by the British University in Dubai, which Professor Whalley named as his main beneficiary in a 2012 Will.

The ‘holograph Will’ – defined as a Will that has been entirely handwritten – was dated 03 May 2018, but was signed on 04 May 2018.

Two witnesses came forward to give evidence that they witnessed the testator’s signature separately on 04 May 2018. However, their attestation was ruled evidently invalid as they were not together as witnesses at the time of signing.

But a second set of witnesses came forward, giving evidence that they witnessed the testator’s signature on 03 May 2018. Their signatures were on the back of the holograph Will.

The second set of witnesses, both academics from the Loughborough University, also provided affidavits confirming that they had attested the signatures on 03 May.

But the British University in Dubai disputed that the signatures on the reverse of the Will were valid, claiming that they were only added later “to represent that those witnesses had witnessed the Will validly on 03 May 2018”.

Regardless, the case crashed down after one of the two new witnesses surprisingly revoked their affidavit in court, stating that there “was no meeting on 03 May 2018”.

Commenting on the case, the High Court Judge said: “The claimant’s case was (and is) simple: the Loughborough witnesses did not attest the signature of Prof Whalley as they say.

“They have simply added their signatures to the document later, after Prof Whalley’s death, and at the behest of the defendant when it subsequently came to light that the 2018 Will was otherwise invalid.

“I find that the relationship between Prof Ebrahimi and each of the Loughborough witnesses goes a long way to explaining why they would have agreed to lie about the alleged meeting on May 3, 2018, as they did in their affidavits of due execution and their witness statements in the proceedings before me.”

Following this revelation, Mr Ebrahimi withdrew his request for a pronouncement in favour of the 2018 will.

The couple was also ordered to pay indemnity costs and costs paid into the court by the claimant.

For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our expert later life planning and dispute resolution team today.

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