A Leeds court has heard an unusual case in which the judge accepted an “oral will” made by a merchant seaman under the 1837 Wills Act – even though the sailor, Ashley Servoz-Gavin, was on dry land at the time.
The following story is from the St. Albans Review
THANKS to the honesty and selflessness of a St Albans woman, her 98-year-old aunt has been awarded her rightful £600,000 inheritance in full.
Christine Dinoulis, 70, would have been entitled to a share of her sailor cousin’s fortune had she not given evidence that Ashley Servoz-Gavin, who died in 2005 without a will, had twice told her he wanted all his money and investment properties to go their aunt, Anne Ayling of Leeds.
Born in February 1946 to Anne’s twin sister Agnes from a brief VE-Day liaison, Ashley was shunned by most of the family – his mother was divorced by her husband who returned from the Second World War to find her pregnant.
In a judgement given last week at Leeds Civil Justice Centre, where Ms Dinoulis gave evidence earlier this month, Judge Langan said: “It is perhaps easy to forget how, even in the recent past, birth out of wedlock was a stigma. Mr Servoz-Gavin was not only bullied at school because of his illegitimacy but appears to have been cold-shouldered by many members of the Ayling family.”
But he described his Auntie Anne, the youngest of ten children, as a shining exception who became a second mother to her nephew as the years passed, providing a home between his voyages as a merchant seaman after Agnes’ death in 1975.
Mr Servoz-Gavin, who was badly burned in a grenade attack in the early Sixties while serving as a soldier, never made a written will but the judge said, under an exception for sailors in the 1837 Wills Act, he could express his wishes orally.
Even though he was not at sea but at his cousin’s home in St Albans when he told her his wishes, the exception still applied because he was under orders to join his ship, the judge ruled.
Although Ms Dinoulis and other members of the family have lost out from the ruling, the judge, who awarded Ms Ayling the entire estate after tax and costs of £582,000, said there was no rancour in the case and no reason to doubt the evidence of any of the witnesses.
St. Albans Review