Home > Browne & Murphy News > Will of poet and author John O’Donohue is declared void by the High Court

By Caroline Browne, Partner

In Re Estate of John O’Donohue; O’Donohue v O’Donohue [2011] IEHC 511 : Mr Justice  Gilligan held that the will of John O’Donoghue (Deceased) is void for uncertainty, resulting in the entirety of John O’Donoghue estate being distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy.

John O’Donohue died in January 2008 and his mother Josie, as administrator of his estate, brought proceedings to the High Court  seeking clarification as to the terms of her son’s will made in 2001. The will was made without the benefit of legal advice. John O’Donoghue was survived by his mother, brothers Patrick and Peter, sister Mary, two nieces and two nephews.

The Will was not clear as to John O’Donohue’s intentions and he had also made an error in having two of his intended beneficiaries of the will – his mother Josie and brother Patrick – witness his signature. The law provides that a witness to a Will cannot be a beneficiary in a Will.

Mr. Justice Gilligan delivered his judgement on the 1st day of December, 2011. He concluded that the will was void for uncertainty. He was “unable to decipher the exact meaning” of the will and said O’Donohue had “unfortunately provided an illustration of exactly how a person should not make a will”. Mr Justice Gilligan further made reference to making of a last will and testament as one of the most important tasks people face but is unfortunately often approached without due consideration.

As a result of his findings, the entire estate falls into intestacy. In accordance with the rules on intestacy the deceased poet’s mother is left the entire estate. At that time the estate was valued at €2 million.

The case highlights the importance of obtaining legal advice before drafting a will.

Related links:

Why make a Will 

How to make a  Will

Challenging a Will 



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