Dufour v Pereira: 1769

Nature of Joint and Mutual Wills

The court was asked as to the validity and effect of a single joint will.
Held: Lord Camden considered the nature of joint or mutual wills. Lord Camden LC said: ‘The parties by mutual will do each of them devise, upon the engagement of the other, that he will likewise devise in manner therein mentioned. The instrument itself is the evidence of the agreement; and he, that dies first, does by his death carry the agreement on his part into execution. If the other then refuses, he is guilty of a fraud, can never unbind himself, and becomes a trustee of course. For no man shall deceive another to his prejudice. By engaging to do something that is in his power, he is made a trustee for the performance, and transmits that trust to those that claim under him.’ and ‘There is no difference between promising to make a will in such a form and making his will with a promise not to revoke it’

Lord Camden LC
(1769) 1 Dick 419, (1769) 2 Harg Jurid Arg 304, [1769] EngR 63, (1769) Dick 419, (1769) 21 ER 332
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedIn Re Estate of Monica Dale Dec, Proctor v Dale ChD 11-Feb-1993
The claimant’s parents had made mutual wills dividing their estates equally between the claimant and her brother. After the father’s death the mother chaged her will to give the biggest benefit to the brother.
Held: The mother could change her . .
CitedIn re Dale dec’d ChD 1994
The taking of a benefit on the strength of a binding engagement is enough to create a constructive trust. For this doctrine to apply there must be a contract at law. For the doctrine of mutual wills to apply it is not necessary that the second . .
CitedGoodchild and Another v Goodchild CA 2-May-1997
The deceased and his wife made wills in virtually identical form. The husband changed his will after their divorce, but his son and other wife claimed that the couple had intended the wills to be part of a larger arrangement of their affairs, . .
ExplainedIn re Hagger; Freeman v Arscott ChD 1930
The husband and wife had made wills in similar terms, each leaving their separate property to each other on the first spouse dying with remainders over. They agreed that the wills should not be revoked without the agreement of the other. The wife . .
CitedThe Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation v Carvel and Another ChD 11-Jun-2007
The husband and wife had made mutual wills in the US with an express agreement not to make later alterations or dispositions without the agreement of the other or at all after the first death. The wife survived, but having lost the first will made a . .
CitedWalters v Olins CA 4-Jul-2008
The claimant appealed against a finding that he had entered into a mutual will contract with the deceased.
Held: It is a legally necessary condition of mutual wills that there is clear and satisfactory evidence of a contract between two . .
CitedHealey v Brown ChD 25-Apr-2002
The two deceased had made mutual wills bequeathing the family home. The survivor transferred the property during his life to defeat the agreement. It was now said that the arrangement fell foul of the 1989 Act and was unenforceable.
Held: . .
CitedRe Oldham; Hadwen v Myles 1925
The court was asked whether an agreement for mutual wills should be inferred. The court said that it is inherently improbable that a testator should be prepared to give up the possibility of changing his or her will in the future, whatever the . .
CitedBirmingham v Renfrew 11-Jun-1937
(High Court of Australia) Cases of mutual wills are only one example of a wider category of cases, for example secret trusts, in which a court of equity will intervene to impose a constructive trust. Latham CJ described a mutual will arrangement as . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate, Trusts

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.195672