Case of mistaken geography emphasises importance of seeking professional advice

17th December 2015

Case of mistaken geography emphasises importance of seeking professional advice

Signing legal document


Do you know whether the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are part of the UK?

The question was at the heart of a recent court case that has highlighted the importance of employing experts to draft wills – and emphasised how even the slightest mistake can become a focus of debate.

The case involved a nuclear physicist who was worth about £2.1 million when he died, leaving the lion’s share of his assets ‘within the UK’ to the Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific institution. However, he had around £1 million in bank accounts in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which – in answer to the question posed above – are not part of the UK.

The Society argued before the High Court that its benefactor’s wishes were clear and that the will simply contained an elementary mistake. However, his surviving relatives insisted that he had fallen out with the Society in his autumn years and had intended to leave the money he had offshore to them.

The Court ruled in favour of the Society, noting that while lawyers may understand the technical meaning of the term ‘UK’, even highly intelligent laymen may not. The use of the term in the will was not confined to its legal definition but embraced the whole of the British Isles.

However, the fact that the case had to be settled in court – and that the true wishes of an eminent scientist were put in doubt by a basic geographical error – should serve as a stark warning as to the dangers of failing to seek expert guidance in matters such as these.

Professional advice is always necessary when entering into important transactions – otherwise there can be serious consequences.

How can our solicitors help you?

Gotelee Solicitors deal with wills, probate, trusts and gifts of property on a daily basis. Our expert team of lawyers is experienced in assisting you through every aspect of the process and offer an efficient and professional service.

To find out more about how Gotelee can help, contact Partner Peter Crix on 01473 211121 or at


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