British Red Cross v Werry  EWHC (England and Wales High Court, Chancery Division, Elizabeth Cooke J, 21 March 2017)
This case concerned a will made by Patricia Deeley, who died in 2014. Her will left her entire estate to the British Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund UK, Brooke (a horse and donkey charity which operates worldwide), the RSPCA and the Peoples’ Dispensary for Sick Animals (a veterinary charity in the UK). For 40 years, Deeley had been the de facto partner of Peter Harding who died in 2008, apparently not leaving a will. Under section 46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (UK), Deeley received nothing on his intestacy and the estate passed to a number of relatives of Harding.
Therefore, Deeley had had to apply under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (UK) following the supposed intestacy in order to obtain a life interest in the house the couple had been living in. She was also awarded £25,000 for repairs to the house, which was never spent. After Deeley’s death, it was discovered that Harding had in fact left a will, leaving the house to Deeley absolutely. Therefore, her estate was worth more than £500,000, much more than had been thought.
The provision for Deeley under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (UK) was evidenced by a consent order and trust deed. It was held that these documents were void for common mistake (i.e. a mistake held by both parties which makes their consent to an agreement void), and they were accordingly set aside by the court. The house had already been sold, but the appellant charities claimed to be entitled to the proceeds of the sale. Since the house was in fact Deeley’s, the charities were successful in obtaining the proceeds of its sale as provided under Deeley’s will. The beneficiaries under Harding’s supposed intestacy did not oppose this outcome.