Testators with assets situated in foreign jurisdictions are usually advised to make separate local wills in each jurisdiction where assets are held. Sufficient care should be taken when drafting a local will to ensure that its scope is limited to the relevant assets. Otherwise, disputes may arise leading to claims by disgruntled beneficiaries, as seen in the recent Court of Appeal case Sangha v Sangha .
The testator Hartar Singh Sangha (Hartar) died in 2016 leaving two families and a sister:-
Hartar made four wills over his lifetime and the dispute related to his last two wills:-
Whereas the 2007 will related to both Hartar’s Indian and UK assets, the 2016 will was in relation to his Indian assets only. The 2016 will included a general revocation clause stating: “This is my last and final will and all such previous documents stand cancelled“. In light of this, the court had to decide whether the 2016 will had revoked the 2007 will in its entirety or merely the part associated with the Indian assets.
After examining this on the first appeal, the High Court held that as the 2016 will was clearly an Indian document and expressed to apply only to Hartar’s Indian assets, the revocation clause should be interpreted accordingly. This meant that the part of the 2007 will relating to Hartar’s UK assets had not been revoked.
The case was then appealed to the Court of Appeal, who reversed the decision of the High Court, concluding that the 2016 will had revoked the 2007 will in its entirety. The Court of Appeal expressly approved the discussions in Lamothe v Lamothe , where it was noted that where a later will contains a general revocation clause, in order to depart from the plain meaning of such a clause, there must be a clear and unequivocal intention on the part of the testator not to revoke earlier wills dealing with property in other jurisdictions. The Court of Appeal could find no evidence that Hartar had such an intention.
The case of Sangha v Sangha  highlights the importance of careful planning and will drafting where a testator owns assets in several jurisdictions. Where separate local wills are being put in place, we work closely with local advisers to ensure that one will does not inadvertently revoke another will and that the wills all dovetail.
If you require any assistance with estate planning, please contact our Tax, Trusts & Succession team at Michelmores.