Solicitor’s pet uncovers curious will that dismisses copy-cat claim in court

You couldn’t make it up, but it seems that a mischievous moggy was solely responsible for unravelling a mystery and helped solve a family feud over a £2m will battle.

Venetia Murray had owned a farm in Hertfordshire, along with her two brothers, Dale and Dean Brunt. After Dean tragically passed away following an accident in 2007, it was believed he had left no will and therefore, his share of the farm, worth £2m was passed to his mother, Marlene Brunt.

However, in 1999, Venetia discovered that her deceased brother had made two wills - one of which outlined his intentions to give her half of his wealth upon his death. This mysterious will was found after Dean’s solicitor’s cat had knocked over a pile of papers.

Not only was this a strange coincidence, but this pile of papers were also destined for the shredder.

It’s hardly surprising that during the hearing in court, Dale Brunt and his mother Marlene alleged that the wills were a hoax and part of an elaborate scam, where a will had been copied and forged so that beneficiaries could be changed in favour of Venetia.

But, the Judge rejected these claims and was satisfied that the will was legitimate and had been signed by Dean himself before his untimely death. Lawyers even said that the will provided “crucial evidence” of Dean’s intentions to give his sister half his wealth and the court ruled in Venetia’s favour.

The judge ruled that Dean’s estate should be divided as per the two wills made in 1999, splitting his share of the farm equally between his siblings and his mother Marlene.

The weird and wonderful stories like these may seem like a whim, but we do quite often come across cases such as these in our line of work.

It really is so important to keep all documents, such as wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney up to date. It is also important to make sure you keep communication channels open with your family. Make sure they are aware of your wishes and make sure they are clear - as this could save heartache in the long term.

If you would like some further advice relating to your will, or you’d like to draft or update one, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Our Team

More Knowledge
Chancellor announces changes to the Job Support Scheme

The Chancellor has today announced that the Government contribution to employers’ wage costs under the Job Support Scheme (JSS) will be increased. Employers will be expected to pay 5% of the cost of unworked hours instead of the 33% originally announced.

Warning for will-holders as expat succession rules could change after Brexit

As talks continue surrounding Brexit and the UK’s formal departure from the EU, expats are being urged to update some of their important legal paperwork before the exit deadline.

Making the most of property incentives? Don’t wait!

Time is running out for those who are planning to purchase new properties and take advantage of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) reductions applicable until the end of March 2021.

The Bank of Mum and Dad

It's a good time to sell. Demand for properties amongst buyers is currently exceeding supply meaning properties in the South East are selling quickly and often at, or even above, asking price. The availability of lending to First Time Buyers (FTBs) continues to improve and with lenders offering FTBs incentives such as paying their Stamp Duty Land Tax bill, more young people will be enticed to take their first step onto the property ladder.

Commercial Leases and Break Clauses

In 2014, we reported on the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Marks & Spencer PLC v BNP Paribas Securities Trust Company (Jersey) Ltd (BNP Paribas). Following this, Marks & Spencer PLC were allowed by the Supreme Court to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal to not grant them a refund of the rent they had paid past the break date of the lease.

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for Private Rented Property

If you are a Landlord of domestic and/or non-domestic private rented property and the Energy Efficiency Rating of that property (shown on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)) is F or G, then this article is relevant to you.


15A High Street
KT11 3DH

T: 01932 589599
F: 01932 867587

DX: 46102 COBHAM


156 High Street

T: 01306 880110
F: 01306 502283



The Tanners
75 Meadrow

T: 01483 861848
F: 01483 861856