The day a scientific genius got his geography wrong in his Will
8 December 2015 by Andrea Godfrey
Michael Crowley-Milling was a nuclear physicist and played an important part in developing technology which enables us to have touch screen smartphones and iPads, but geography appears to not be his strong point.
He died aged 95 in 2012 and had no children. His “baby” was his Alfa Romeo 1931 8C. He owned it since he was 21 and sold it to a friend before his death for a staggering £2 million.
In his Will he requested that most of his wealth “within the UK” should go to the world’s oldest scientific institution – the Royal Society. However in 2012, around half his fortune (£1 million) was in bank accounts in Jersey and the Isle of Man – not in the UK. A battle commenced between the Royal Society and the descendants of Michael’s children and lead to the high Court case of The Royal Society v Robinson & Others 2015.
His 2009 Will left a home for his carer, £400,000 to relatives and the balance to the Royal Society. But his family claimed that they were entitled to the £1 million in Jersey and the Isle of Man and not the charity. Their argument was that a man who could only be called a genius must of known his geography and therefore wanted the £1 million to go to his family and there was also a side argument that he had fallen out with the Charity. The Royal Society argued that Michael had simply made a geographical error.
Mr Justice Nugee sided with the Royal Society and decided that the words “United Kingdom” should be given a wider interpretation and construed to include Isle of Man and Jersey in this particular case. Judge Nugee accepted that the technical definition of the UK did not include the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man but that the 2009 Will should be interpreted to include the offshore accounts as it was clear this was Michael’s intention.
He stated that “Lawyers may understand perfectly well the technical meaning of the term ‘UK’. “But there is no evidence that laymen – even highly intelligent laymen – would have grasped the difference between the UK, Great Britain and the British Isles.”
This shows the importance of ensuring that you keep your Will up to date and review it regularly. If you are not sure whether you need to review your Will, we will always be happy to discuss this with you on a no-obligation basis. Get in touch with the team today on 01206 835261 or email us at [email protected].