|Hand-written Italian will did not revoke English will|
The sister of deceased Italian immigrant Piero Curati has failed to overturn a High Court judgment that awarded his UK estate to his niece and nephew.
Carmen Curati maintained that a will executed by Piero in England in 1980 was revoked by a shorter will he later hand-wrote in Italy.
The deceased and his wife Emilia Curati came to England in 1955, first taking over Curati's parents' restaurant business and later becoming successful property investors. They had no children, but in due course made mirror wills, leaving their assets first to each other and then to Mrs. Curati's niece and nephew, Silvana and Roberto Perdoni.
However, for some unknown reason, Piero paid a visit to Italy in 1994 where he wrote, in Italian, a short holographic will (i.e. it was handwritten and signed by him, but there were no witnesses). This will named his wife as his sole heir.
Piero's wife died in 2007, and Piero himself died in 2008. Thus, if the Italian will was valid and revoked the English one, an intestacy arose that would make his sister Carmen the sole beneficiary (as it happens, English and Italian law are agreed upon that).
Silvana and Roberto Perdoni claimed that Piero was domiciled in England at his death and the 1980 English will therefore remained valid, making them the sole beneficiaries of Piero's estate. Carmen disagreed asserting that he was domiciled in Italy and that the English will had been revoked by the Italian holograph will, although the latter did not contain an express revocation clause.
The case was heard first in the England and Wales High Court in December 2011. Both sides called witnesses said to be experts on the Italian law of domicile, but they gave conflicting evidence.
Ultimately the High Court judge ruled that Piero's domicile was England, and that the 1980 will stood valid as regards the deceased's estate in England.
Carmen then took the matter to appeal on two grounds. First that the High Court should have considered the possibility that the testator's intentions, when writing his Italian will, rebutted the presumption that his estate should be disposed under the law of his place of domicile, i.e. England. The second ground was that the High Court judge had erred by holding that as a matter of English law, the 1994 will did not impliedly revoke the 1980 will.
The Appeal Court has now dismissed both claims. Giving judgment, Lord Justice Tomlinson noted that the Italian will was definitive as to the extent of the gift, but silent as to what was to become of it in the event of Piero's wife predeceasing him. ‘That is a circumstance for which in his earlier will the deceased had made express provision, and I can see no basis upon which it can reliably be inferred that the testator intended by his second will impliedly to revoke that disposition,’ he said. ‘There is no inconsistency between the two wills and no reason why each should not be given its full effect.
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Published on our website on November 5, 2012