A mistake by a couple in signing each other's Wills some 14 years ago has led to complications and legal disputes over who should rightfully inherit their £70,000 legacy.
It is now in the hands of the Supreme Court to decide on the validity of the Wills and to conclude the dispute between Michael and Terry Rawlings, the two biological sons of Alfred and Maureen Rawlings, and Terry Marley, who lived with the family but was never formally adopted.
Marley, 54, had been treated as the couple's son since he was a teenager, when the Rawlings family took him in at their former home in Bermondsey, southeast London. He was left their subsequent home in Westerham, Kent, valued at £400,000, after the death of Alfred Rawlings in 2006 in recognition of his devotion during the 30 years they had lived together.
The relationship between their sons and Marley deteriorated after the couple died and it was discovered that the signing and witnessing of the Wills had not been carried out correctly by their solicitor in 1999.
Marley initially offered to split the £70,000 legacy but due to the wrangle over the legality of the identical Wills, the money has been frozen. After losing two previous cases over the dispute, Marley was given the right to bring the matter to the Supreme Court.
According to a judgment at the Court of Appeal last year, the Wills of Alfred and Maureen Rawlings were not valid because the Testator of the Will named in the text had not signed his or her name. Michael and Terry Rawlings maintain that the Wills are invalid and insist their parents effectively died intestate, meaning that they alone should inherit the money.
During the Supreme Court hearings, lawyers for Marley claimed that the intentions of Alfred Rawlings, who died three years after his wife, were clear, and called for the Wills to be amended to fulfil the couple's last wish.
The final verdict has yet to be decided, but this case highlights the importance of ensuring your Will is correctly executed so there is no mistaking your final wishes.