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The costly comma

Your Life
Thursday 27 September 2018
On 29 December 2010, Ronald Anthony Allcroft Gibbons wrote his Will. In the Will, he asked his executors:

“…to hold on trust to pay my debts, taxes and testamentary expenses and pay the residue to Veronica Broadhurst, Ann Foden, the living grandchildren of Veronica Broadhurst, and David Spurling in equal shares.”

Who do you think Ronald meant his wealth to be left to? If you can’t decide, you’re not alone. A year later, following Ronald’s death, the claimants were disputing the Will. Lack of detail, alongside the comma before David’s name, led them to come up with four different ways the Will could be construed:

1. 13 equal shares for Veronica, Ann, and the grandchildren

2. 4 shares for Veronica, Ann and David, with the remaining share to be divided amongst Veronica’s grandchildren

3. 4 shares for Veronica and Ann, one for Veronica’s grandchildren, and one for David’s grandchildren

4. 10 shares – one each to Veronica, Ann and David and the remaining seven to each of Veronica’s grandchildren


DIY Wills not always straightforward

The moral of the story? When it comes to Will-writing, an off-the-shelf DIY Will may seem straightforward and tempting for the price, but one misplaced comma can cause unintended courtroom dramas or even make the difference of you leaving £200.000 or £200,000!

As for Ronald’s Will, after the Spurlings took it to court, the judge decided the residue was to be divided into 13 equal shares for Veronica, Ann, the grandchildren of David, and the grandchildren of Veronica.

You might also be interested in Seven things people forget in their Will
Page last updated: Monday 12 November 2018