The formalities of a last will and testament are brought to bear when upon their death, the testator had left a declaration of intent, but with two named individuals on the reverse and nothing to connect them.
In accordance with the rules of probate, the alleged beneficiaries applied for a grant of letters of administration, on the strength that the deceased had orally expressed her intention to bequeath all her possessions to two cousins, upon which she had written on a small sheet of plain paper, words echoing that sentiment, yet with only ‘signed’ at the foot of the document. Written on the reverse, and while upside down, were the two names of women who had since become untraceable.
Keen to endorse the aims of the testator, the judge explained that perhaps the time was right for the application of the maxim omnia praesumunter rite esse acta meaning ‘all things are to be done in due form.’
It was also noted that as expressed by Sir Francis Jeune in In the Goods of Peverett:
“[T]he court will not allow a matter of form to stand in the way if the essential elements of execution have been fulfilled”.
It was further commented that at that time, the court felt it had extended its willingness to uphold the wishes of a testator to its fullest; however the judge felt that despite the presence of an attestation clause in Peverett, there was little to connect the names of the two women to the express desires of the deceased.
Despite this, and in keeping with the powers of a court to declare that which was clearly felt at the time of writing the will, the judge took the decision to extend the boundaries further, as there was no credible reason why the two signatures were entered on the reverse other than to attest and support the wishes of another.
“Having taken into account all the factors, I think it proper to take that step further because it seems to m e that there is no other practical reason why those names should be on the back of the document unless it was for the purpose of attesting the will.”