A Student’s Perspective – Eight Tips for Surviving Your First Summer As A Student at RSS

(1)   Always smile and be kind with each person you cross at RSS. You will be surprised how much every single person in the office plays an integral part in the firm’s extended ecosystem. Whether it is a late-night security guard or a bike messenger in the elevator, every individual you see come in and out of the office merits your respect and energy. This applies especially to the office’s amazing team of secretaries and receptionists!

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Ambiguous Wills and Evidence

Recent case law re-iterates the requirements for the admissibility of extrinsic evidence to determine the intention of the deceased where there is ambiguity in a will.


The making of a will is an important legal task but unfortunately it can often be left to the last minute, approached with haste and without due consideration. The primary purpose of a will is a definitive statement regarding the distribution of a person’s assets on their death. It therefore needs to be clear, concise, definitive and unambiguous.

The legal personal representative is obliged to administer the estate, in accordance with the terms of the will. Where terms are ambiguous court intervention may be required.

When a court is asked to intervene in the interpretation of specific clause(s) in a will, the primary duty of the court is to give effect to the intention of the testator as can be ascertained from the terms of the will. The will is often read as a whole so therefore the general intention overrides the particular one. There is great distinction however between rewriting a will, which a court cannot do, and making alterations, which they can do, so as to ensure the will is consistent with the testator’s intention.

The legislation

Where there is an ambiguity in a will and extrinsic (external) evidence will assist in the construction of the will and show the deceased’s intention, Section 90 of the Succession Act 1965 is used as a guide. Section 90 sets out in what circumstances extrinsic evidence is admissible. If a will cannot be construed from its own meaning then outside evidence can be adduced, but only if:-

a) There is a contradiction or an ambiguity in the will
b) Its admission will assist in gleaning the intention of the deceased and assist in the construction of the will.

Case Law

Wills should be clear and definitive. Examples of bequests which have been held to be void for uncertainty include a bequest of “some of my best linen”, and “a handsome gratuity to be given”. These bequests all lacked substance and certainty.

In the case of Bennett v Bennett the deceased gave his farm to his wife for life, with the remainder to his nephew “Denis Bennett”. The deceased had no nephew called Denis Bennett, but did have a brother named Denis, and a nephew named William Bennett. In this case extrinsic evidence was admissible to show that William Bennett was the intended beneficiary.

A recent case involving a home-made will of Dr. John O’ Donoghue was so entirely devoid of certainty, that the entire will failed resulting in an intestacy (where the deceased is treated as having made no will and legislation, the intestacy rules, are applied to distribute any estate). The court viewed the will as the perfect illustration of how a person should not make a will. The will was perfectly valid in its execution, but the terms of the will were utterly unclear and incapable of interpretation.

The terms of the will were as follows:-

I leave all my worldly possessions to Josie O’ Donoghue, my mother, to be divided equally and fairly between my family, with special care (&) extra help to be given to Mary O’ Donoghue, my sister. Also gifts of money to be given to Olivia (&) family & Marian O’Brien. Smaller gifts to Downey, Ethel, Sheila & Pat O’ Brien Laurie Johnston, Ellen Wingard, Deirdre O’ Dongohue.

As the will failed all of the named beneficiaries failed to inherit anything! This startling outcome reinforces that a will must be clearly and unambiguously drafted.

In the matter of the will of Evelyn Tomlinson, a specific bequest was made in the will to the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (Dogs and Cats Home), 1 Grand Canal, Quay, Dublin. However there was no such entity in existence. There were however two bodies, namely the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The court allowed the admissibility of extrinsic evidence as a clear ambiguity existed and there was a legitimate dispute as to the meaning of the effect of the language used in the will. Extrinsic evidence showed that the deceased subscribed to the Dublin Society, and the Dublin Society owned the premises at 1 Grand Canal Quay, and operated the Dogs and Cats Home from that premises, before it moved elsewhere. On the balance of probabilities, the court leaned towards the Dublin Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals as the intended beneficiary.

Recent Case Law

In the case of Maureen Black v Anne Sullivan Centre Ltd, Our Lady’s Hospice and Family Solidarity Ltd (2016) the deceased in her will left an apartment at 41 Block C, Sydney Parade Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4 to:-

Rosemary Black (daughter of my niece Maureen Black of 51 Beechpark Ave, Castleknock, Dublin 15).

The difficulty arose as Maureen Black had no daughter Rosemary Black. She did have a daughter named Barbara Black and indeed that name was used in further sections of the will, not related to this specific bequest. Extrinsic evidence was admissible to show that Barbara Black had spent considerable time in the company of the deceased, and had built up a strong rapport and relationship with the deceased over many years and that she was the intended beneficiary.

Had the bequest failed to take effect, then it would have fallen into the residue of the estate and benefited the charitable recipients of the residuary estate. Clearly this was not the intent of the deceased, in that she wished to benefit one of the daughters of Maureen Black, and external evidence was admissible to explain the ambiguity and to clarify the intention of the deceased.


There is clear case-law to suggest courts lean towards testacy (applying the terms of a will), but not so far as to rewrite a will. Clearly it is advisable to be clear, definitive in the terms of your will, and to use plain and simple language. When describing assets and beneficiaries it is better to over-emphasise their description. In describing a beneficiary such as niece or nephew it is best to state the name and then the relationship with the brother or sister of the deceased, for example: Joe Bloggs (son of my brother David Bloggs) – lest there are more than one nephews by that name.

Applications for extrinsic evidence to be considered have cost implications for the estate so it is prudent to ensure the will is correct and unambiguous in the first instance so that such applications are unnecessary.

The post Ambiguous Wills and Evidence appeared first on Holmes O’Malley Sexton Solicitors.

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50 Really Is the New 40

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) protects individuals who are at least 40 years of age from discrimination in the workplace. As such, the outcome of disparate-impact claims under the ADEA hinges, ordinarily, on whether or not an employer’s facially neutral-policy has a disparate impact on employees who are 40 years of age or older.  On January 10, 2017, the Third Circuit, in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, LLC, 2017 BL 6064 (3d Cir. 2017), issued a precedential ruling, holding that disparate impact claims under the ADEA are not limited to comparisons of the impact an employer’s policy has on employees over 40 with the impact to employees under 40. Rather, the Third Circuit found that claims premised on an allegation that an employer’s policy impacted workers over the age of 50 are cognizable under the ADEA even when the policy had no disparate impact when employees in their forties were considered.

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Governor Andrew D. Cuomo Introduces Employee Protective Mandates in New York State

Our colleagues Judah L. Rosenblatt, Jeffrey H. Ruzal, and Susan Gross Sholinsky, at Epstein Becker Green, have a post on the Hospitality Labor and Employment Law Blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the health care industry: “Where Federal Expectations Are Low Governor Cuomo Introduces Employee Protective Mandates in New York.”

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ILN Today Post

Post Amendment Challenge and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards – Clarification by the Delhi High Court

Un-amended (Indian) Arbitration Act would continue to apply to challenge and enforcement proceedings concerning awards delivered in arbitrations commenced prior to the amendment. The party challenging such an arbitral award is therefore entitled to an automatic stay on its enforcement without deposit of any money in the court, in keeping with the position prior to the amendment.

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The False Claims Act Under a Trump Administration – What Does Attorney General Nominee Sessions Think?

As discussed previously in this blog, efforts to curb fraud, waste and abuse are generally “bi-partisan.” Given the significant monetary recoveries the Government enjoys through enforcement of the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”), we have predicted that efforts in this arena will continue under a Trump administration. However, this is dependent, in part, on the priorities of the new administration and the resources it devotes in this arena. To this end, the testimony of Attorney General nominee Sessions during his confirmation hearing on January 10th may have given us some insight into how he views the FCA.

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(Français) Témoignage d’un étudiant – CV et Lettre de présentation

Appliquer pour un stage en milieu juridique n’est certainement pas une tâche facile. Plusieurs éléments doivent être pris en compte pour bien préparer sa candidature. Deux éléments très importants sont, d’ailleurs, le curriculum vitae et la lettre de présentation. Le CV permet aux comités de recrutement de jeter un coup d’œil sur vos différentes expériences, tandis que la lettre de présentation vous permet de les détailler.

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Will the new tax regime for the capital gains arising from sale of Russian property be actually postponed under the DTT with Cyprus?

On December 29, 2016 the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Cyprus on its official website issued an announcement that an agreement has been reached between the Russian and Cypriot authorities for postponing the application of the Protocol of October 7, 2010 amending Article 13 of the Double Tax Treaty between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus “On Avoidance of Double Taxation with respect to taxes on income and capital” dated December 5, 1998 (hereinafter – Russia-Cyprus DTT)1. In the announcement, it is also indicated that an additional Protocol is being finalized, providing for the application of the revised provisions of Article 13 of the Russia-Cyprus DTT, until similar provisions are introduced in other bilateral agreements for the Avoidance of Double Taxation between the Russian Federation and other European countries.

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Lidings’ Partner Dmitry Gravin Joins The European Criminal Bar Association

Head of the Lidings’ criminal defense practice Dmitry Gravin has joined The European Criminal Bar Association (ECBA) becoming the only member in the network representing the Russian capital.

ECBA is an association of the European criminal defense lawyers – the leading advocates from over 40 countries specializing in criminal defense.  The primary purpose of ECBA is to support development of the criminal defense legislation in Europe, promoting the fundamental rights of persons under criminal investigation, suspects, accused and convicted persons in international criminal defense cases.

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Where Federal Expectations Are Low Governor Cuomo Introduces Employee Protective Mandates in New York

Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew D. Cuomo (D) signed two executive orders and announced a series of legislative proposals specifically aimed at eliminating the wage gap in gender, among other workers and strengthening equal pay protection in New York State. The Governor’s actions are seen by many as an alternative to employer-focused federal policies anticipated once President-elect Donald J. Trump (R) takes office.

Legislative Proposals

According to the Governor’s Press Release, the Governor will seek to amend State law to hold the top 10 members of out-of-state limited liability companies (“LLC”) personally financially liable for unsatisfied judgments for unpaid wages. This law already exists with respect to in-state and out-of-state corporations, as well as in-state LLCs. The Governor is also seeking to empower the Labor Commissioner to pursue judgments against the top 10 owners of any corporations or domestic or foreign LLCs for wage liabilities on behalf of workers with unpaid wage claims.

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