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Knowledge When can a Will limited to UK estate also cover Jersey assets?

The recent case of Partington v Rossiter [2021] EWCA Civ 1564 highlights the importance of paying close attention to jurisdictional limits when drafting Wills. In this case, the English Court of Appeal held that the reference to "UK" assets in fact covered assets in Jersey, Channel Islands as well.

If "UK" in this case did not cover Jersey based assets, the testator would be intestate as to estate in Jersey and the widow would inherit those assets under intestate succession rules. If "UK" did cover Jersey based assets then the testator's children would inherit those assets as named residuary beneficiaries of the Will.

This finding is significant for Will drafters and testators because the reference to the "UK" usually does not include the Channel Islands. Section 5 of and Schedule 1 to the Interpretation Act 1978 defines the United Kingdom as "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "United Kingdom" has never included the Channel Islands. So why did the Court of Appeal conclude that the Will did cover the deceased's assets in Jersey?

This is an important reminder for practitioners to take care when defining the jurisdictional scope of a Will. The issues with interpretation of the Will in question have been costly and could have been avoided. Had there been less evidence of the testator's intention, the Court of Appeal may have found that the testator died partially intestate.

UK practitioners drafting Wills for clients with assets in Jersey should seek Jersey advice in order to avoid assets falling into intestacy unintentionally.

Testators should also think carefully about where their assets are located and, where there are Jersey assets involved, it would be best for them to take Jersey legal advice as to how best to deal with such assets, whether through their English Will or having a specific Jersey Will.

 

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