The deceased had spent relatively equal periods in two or more countries. The parties disputed his domicile.
Held: A blind adherence to foreign law can not be always expected of an English Court. The legal relationship between a person and the legal system of the territory which invokes his personal law is based on a combination of residence and intention. Everybody has a domicile of origin, which may be supplanted by a domicile of choice.
Scarman J said: ‘First, that the domicile of origin prevails in the absence of a domicile of choice, i.e., if a domicile of choice has never been acquired or, if once acquired, has been abandoned. Secondly, that a domicile of choice is acquired when a man fixes voluntarily his sole or chief residence in a particular place with an intention of continuing to reside there for an unlimited time.’ and
‘(1) The domicile of origin adheres unless displaced by satisfactory evidence of the acquisition and continuance of a domicile of choice; (2) a domicile of choice is acquired only if it is affirmatively shown that the propositus is resident in a territory subject to a distinctive legal system with the intention, formed independently of external pressures, of residing there indefinitely. If a man intends to return to the land of his birth upon a clearly foreseen and reasonably anticipated contingency, e.g., the end of his job, the intention required by law is lacking; but, if he has in mind only a vague possibility, such as making a fortune (a modern example might be winning a football pool), or some sentiment about dying in the land of his fathers, such a state of mind is consistent with the intention required by law. But no clear line can be drawn; the ultimate decision in each case is one of fact-of the weight to be attached to the various factors and future contingencies in the contemplation of the propositus, their importance to him, and the probability, in his assessment, of the contingencies he has in contemplation being transformed into actualities. (3) It follows that, though a man has left the territory of his domicile of origin with the intention of never returning, though he be resident in a new territory, yet if his mind be not made up or evidence be lacking or unsatisfactory as to what is his state of mind, his domicile of origin adheres . . .’ and
‘necessary intention must be clearly and unequivocally proved. ‘ The domicile of origin is more enduring than the domicile of choice: ‘ . . It is beyond doubt that the burden of proving the abandonment of a domicile of origin and the acquisition of a domicile of choice is upon the person asserting the change . . What has to be proved is no mere inclination arising from a passing fancy or thrust upon a man by an external but temporary pressure, but an intention freely formed to reside in a certain territory indefinitely. All the elements of the intention must be shown to exist if the change is to be established: if any one element is not proved, the case for a change fails. The court must be satisfied as to the proof of the whole; but I see no reason to infer from these salutary warnings the necessity for formulating in a probate case a standard of proof in language appropriate to criminal proceedings.
The formula of proof beyond reasonable doubt is not frequently used in probate cases, and I do not propose to give it currency. It is enough that the authorities emphasise that the conscience of the court (to borrow a phrase from a different context, the judgment of Parke B in Barry v. Butlin  2 Moo P.C.C. 480) must be satisfied by the evidence. The weight to be attached to evidence, the inferences to be drawn, the facts justifying the exclusion of doubt and the expression of satisfaction, will vary according to the nature of the case. Two things are clear-first, that unless the judicial conscience is satisfied by evidence of change, the domicile of origin persists: and secondly, that the acquisition of a domicile of choice is a serious matter not to be lightly inferred from slight indications or casual words.’
Scarman J dismissed the idea that the standard of proof required to prevent an inference of the revival of a domicile of origin on the loss of a domicile of choice was the criminal standard. An inference drawn by the court must be consistent with all the relevant proved or admitted facts. He said: ‘There remains the question of standard of proof. It is beyond doubt that the burden of proving the abandonment of a domicile of origin and the acquisition of a domicile of choice is upon the party asserting the change. But it is not so clear what is the standard of proof: is it to be proved beyond reasonable doubt or upon a balance of probabilities, or does the standard vary according to whether one seeks to establish abandonment of a domicile of origin or merely a switch from one domicile of choice to another? Or is there some other standard?
In Moorhouse v. Lord, Lord Chelmsford said that the necessary intention must be clearly and unequivocally proved. In Winans v. Att.-Gen., Lord Macnaghten said that the character of a domicile of origin ‘is more enduring, its hold stronger and less easily shaken off.’ In Ramsay v. Liverpool Royal Infirmary, the House of Lords seemed to have regarded the continuance of a domicile of origin as almost an irrebuttable presumption. Danger lies in wait for those who would deduce legal principle from descriptive language. The powerful phrases of the cases are, in my opinion, a warning against reaching too facile a conclusion upon a too superficial investigation or assessment of the facts of a particular case. They emphasise as much the nature and quality of the intention that has to be proved as the standard of proof required. What has to be proved is no mere inclination arising from a passing fancy or thrust upon a man by an external but temporary pressure, but an intention freely formed to reside in a certain territory indefinitely. All the elements of the intention must be shown to exist if the change is to be established: if any one element is not proved, the case for a change fails. The court must be satisfied as to the proof of the whole; but I see no reason to infer from these salutary warnings the necessity for formulating in a probate case a standard of proof in language appropriate to criminal proceedings.
The formula of proof beyond reasonable doubt is not frequently used in probate cases, and I do not propose to give it currency. It is enough that the authorities emphasise that the conscience of the court (to borrow a phrase from a different context, the judgment of Parke B. in Barry v. Butlin) must be satisfied by the evidence. The weight to be attached to evidence, the inferences to be drawn, the facts justifying the exclusion of doubt and the expression of satisfaction, will vary according to the nature of the case. Two things are clear – first, that unless the judicial conscience is satisfied by evidence of change, the domicile of origin persists: and secondly, that the acquisition of a domicile of choice is a serious matter not to be lightly inferred from slight indications or casual words.’
. . And: ‘when all is dark, it is dangerous for a court to claim that it can see the light.’
When the court is asked to grant probate in solemn form it is called upon to decide whether the instrument propounded expresses the real intention of the testator. The law requires the court to exercise vigilant care and scrutiny whenever a case reveals reasonable grounds for suspicion. Scarman J said: ‘Because it is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to discover the truth, the law insists on two types of safeguard in will cases. The first type of safeguard is part of the substantive law – the requirements of proper form and due execution. Such requirements . . are no mere technicalities. They are the first line of defence against fraud upon the dead.
The second type of safeguard is the second line of defence. It is invoked where there are circumstances which give rise to suspicion; it is the safeguard of strict proof. In cases where no suspicion reasonably arises the court will allow inferences – presumptions as they are sometimes called – to be drawn from the regularity of a testamentary instrument upon its face, or the fact of due execution. But if there are circumstances, whatever be their nature, which reasonably give rise to suspicion, the court must be on its guard. It must ensure that the burden of proof rests upon the party propounding the will: and ‘he must satisfy the conscience of the court that the instrument so propounded is the last will of a free and capable testator’.’
 P 675,  3 WLR 401,  3 All ER 318
England and Wales
Cited – Barry v Butlin PC 8-Dec-1838
The testator, who had one son, bequeathed legacies to Percy, his attorney, one Butlin, to whom he also bequeathed the residue of his estate, and Whitehead, his butler. The will was upheld by the judge in the Prerogative Court and the son appealed. . .
Cited – Fuller v Strum CA 7-Dec-2001
The appellant challenged a finding that only part of a will was valid. The part made a gift to his son, ‘albeit very grudgingly’, saying ‘I hate him like poison, that Irish bastard.’
Held: The onus on the propounder of a will to show that it . .
Cited – Peer International Corporation Southern Music Publishing Company Inc Peermusic (UK) Limited v Termidor Music Publishers Limited Termidor Musikverlag Gmbh and Co Kg -And-Editoria Musical De Cuba CA 30-Jul-2003
Peer sought declarations that they were the owners, or licensees, of the UK copyright in musical works composed by Cuban nationals, relying on assignments in writing by the composers and in some instances by their heirs. The defendants claimed under . .
Cited – Sherrington v Sherrington ChD 13-Jul-2004
The deceased had divorced and remarried. His children challenged the will made after his second marriage.
Held: There was cogent evidence that the will was not properly executed and that the will went against his wishes as expressed to others. . .
Cited – Agulian and Another v Cyganik CA 24-Feb-2006
The question was whether the deceased had lost his domicile of birth and acquired one of choice when living and working in the UK for 43 years. He had retained land in Cyprus, but lived here.
Held: He had retained his domicile of birth: . .
Cited – Barlow Clowes International Ltd and Others v Henwood CA 23-May-2008
The receiver appealed against an order finding that the debtor petitioner was not domiciled here when the order was made. The debtor had a domicile of origin in England, but later acquired on in the Isle of Man. He then acquired a home in Mauritius . .
Approved – Buswell v Inland Revenue Commissioners CA 1974
Cited – Gill v Woodall and Others ChD 5-Oct-2009
The claimant challenged her late mother’s will which had left the entire estate to a charity. She asserted lack of knowledge and approval and coercion, and also an estoppel. The will included a note explaining that no gift had been made because she . .
Cited – Gill v Woodall and Others CA 14-Dec-2010
The court considered the authorities as to the capacity to make a will, and gave detailed guidance.
Held: As a matter of common sense and authority, the fact that a will has been properly executed, after being prepared by a solicitor and read . .
Cited – Holliday and Another v Musa and Others CA 30-Mar-2010
The adult children of the deceased appealed against a finding that their father had died domiciled in the UK, and allowing an application under the 1975 Act. He had a domicile of origin in Cyprus but had lived in England since 1958. . .
See Also – In re the Estate of Fuld, decd (No. 4) 1968
The solicitor sought to exercise a lien for his costs over money paid direct to his client.
Held: The solicitor’s right exists over both the amount of a judgment in favour of the client, and the amount of an order for costs in favour of the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Jurisdiction, Family, Litigation Practice, Wills and Probate
Updated: 20 January 2022; Ref: scu.186118