The Case of the Missing Original Will

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Where there is a Will, there’s a family dispute waiting to happen…

A contested probate claim between ‘warring siblings’ who do not have legal representation has spawned at least 12 court orders so far, according to a recent article in the Law Gazette.

High Court Judge David Hodge QC said that navigating the bundles produced by the claimant in the case Face v Cunningham & Anor, who has been representing herself, has been a ‘complete nightmare’. He further described the evidence produced by her witnesses as ‘pure fiction’.

There has been a considerable number of interim applications and case management orders. The respondent’s trial bundles had showed seven orders made by the judge, and four others by the business and property court district judges.

He added that earlier on in the litigation, he had made at least one order appointing an administrator pending suit to the late Mr Face’s estate.

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The case is about the estate of the late Donald Charles Face and involves his three children: Rebecca, Rowena and Richard. Rebecca has claimed that she has an alleged lost Will her late father made, dated September 2017.

Rowena has contended that the Will is a forgery her sister committed, conspiring with the two attesting witnesses. She says their father died intestate and that therefore the three siblings are due an equal entitlement to his estate. The sisters’ brother, Richard, has also argued the case for intestacy and disputes the legality of the 2017 Will.

The judge said that if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Anthony Horowitz were to write up the events that had led to the litigation, they would have called the story, ‘The Case of the Missing Original Will’. He added that this was the fourth significant contended probate claim between warring siblings that he’d needed to adjudicate in the business and property courts in Liverpool within the last two years.

He said he was ‘sure’ Rebeca had forged the Will and that he could not accept her as a witness of truth, adding that he ‘totally rejected’ the evidence of the couple who claimed to have witnessed the 2017 Will, calling their evidence ‘incredible’ and likely to be ‘pure fiction’.

The case has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

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