Finders International’s attention was attracted recently to a news article about the death of a man in Jersey who had been unable to leave a will because a tumour left him unable to sign a will because he couldn’t use his hands.

The case has been highlighted by the man’s family, as they believe the island’s succession laws violate the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) because of this.

The man in question, Anthony Yves Le Couilliard had asked an independent party to sign his will on his behalf – which is standard practice in other jurisdictions such as England & Wales, and Guernsey (also part of the Channel Islands).

But because this was the first case of its kind in Jersey, the Court had not been able to accept that Mr Le Couilliard’s will was valid and he was deemed to have died intestate.

Since then, an investigation has been commissioned by the offshore law firm Collas Crill which found that most jurisdictions which abide by the European Convention of Human Rights do provide others ways for people to sign a will if they are unable to sign their name by themselves and they see no legitimate reason for Jersey’s law “to take a contradictory approach”.

Collas Crill associate Julie Harrigan who commissioned the report said: “The circumstances surrounding Mr Le Couilliard’s case are incredibly sad. To say that, under Jersey law, a person who has full mental capacity but yet due to a medical condition is unable to sign his/her name is barred from making a will is not in line with modern legal thinking and, as highlighted by the report, the approach of Jersey is contrary to the modern approach of the jurisdictions which abide to the ECHR.

“It is incredible to think that if Professor Stephen Hawking was a Jersey-domiciled individual, he would be unable to make a valid will.”

Mr Le Couilliard’s widow Nicki said she knew her husband would have wanted her to continue to fight for the right of men and women like him who were unable to hold a pen to sign a will so that they were able to have their last wishes carried out, just like any other able-bodied person.

Ms Harrigan added that she hoped by submitting the report to the States of Jersey Legislative Panel, the States would consider amending the law to allow residents who found themselves in a similar position the right to leave a will relating to their estate.

The case also has the support of the local branch of the brain injury charity Headway, with the charity saying that it strongly supports the initiative undertaken by Collas Crill and Mrs Le Couilliard to change the law, adding that everything should be done to make such situations as stress-free as possible.

Finders International specialises in dealing with the estates of people who have died without leaving a valid will.
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