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HCR Law Events

29 July 2021

Ex-wife triumphs over new wife in dispute over mother-in-law’s Will

In the case of Ash v Ash (2021), Don Ash divorced his first wife, Cindy, in 2013 and married Maya two years later. Don and Maya had a daughter together, but Don died unexpectedly at the age of 60 in 2017, followed by his mother, Joyce Appleby, two years later.

In Joyce’s Will, drawn up ten years before her death, she divided her £840,000 estate between her two sons. She also stated that should Don die before her, his half should go to ‘his wife Cindy Ash’. Maya argued at Court that the money should go to her, as Don’s wife at the time of his death and the mother of his young child, asserting that Joyce’s intention was to provide for her son’s current family.

Cindy disagreed and argued that, despite being Don’s ex-wife, she was specifically named in the Will and maintained a mother-daughter relationship with Joyce even following her divorce from Don. This was supported by Don’s brother, Gordon, who told the Court that Cindy remained part of the family following the divorce and that his mother disapproved of Don’s relationship with Maya, who was half his age. Gordon even asserted that, despite Don and Maya’s child being Joyce’s granddaughter, she would not have wanted to leave money to her.

The Court agreed with Cindy and found that the specific reference to ‘Cindy Ash’ in the Will meant that Joyce intended Don’s share to go to Cindy should Don die before his mother, rather than to whoever was his wife at the time of Joyce’s death. It was clear that Joyce still considered Cindy to be family following the divorce and this was supported by their continuing close relationship even after Don had remarried.

The ruling meant that Maya missed out on half of Joyce’s £840,000 estate whilst also being ordered to pay Cindy and Gordon £50,000 in legal fees. This highlights just how important it is for a Will and the testator’s intentions behind it to be as clear as possible.

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Emma McCarthy, Partner

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