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The recent case of Langley v Qin has brought even further attention to the Court’s lack of jurisdiction on the issue of ‘predatory marriages’.

This case concerned 94 year old Robert Harrington who executed a Will, just 2 months prior to his death. The will left the entirety of his £680,000 estate to his former carer and wife, Guixiang Qin, aged 54.

Robert Harrington’s disinherited daughter, Jill Langley brought a claim contesting the validity of the Will based on lack of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval and undue influence.


  1. The judge found that Mr Harrington lacked sufficient capacity to make a valid Will.
  2. The judge found that Mr Harrington did not sufficiently know and approve of the contents of the Will.
  3. The judge found that Ms Qin had control over Mr Harrington’s finances and she had been responsible for ‘shopping around’ with local solicitors firms in trying to find one that was prepared to make Mr Harrington a Will.

These findings led to the Judge ruling in Jill Langley’s favour and the Court made an Order that the Will Mr Harrington made on 24 March 2020 was to be set aside. Mr Harrington did not have a previous Will. This meant Mr Harrington died intestate, and that his estate would pass under the rules of intestacy (down his family tree).

On the surface this looks like a substantial win for Jill Langley, as she will now inherit a sum in the region of  £200,000. However, Mr Harrington’s wife, Ms Qin, is still set to inherit the other £480,000.

Challenge the Marriage?

You may be wondering why there was no formal challenge to the validity of Mr Harrington’s marriage to Ms Qin. Surely if he lacked capacity to execute a Will there is a good chance he lacked capacity to marry Ms Qin around the same time the Will was drafted?

Unfortunately in circumstances such as these, even if the marriage was to be successfully challenged, this would not change the way Mr Harrington’s estate was distributed.

This is because Section 16 of the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973 states: “A nullity of marriage order granted in respect of a voidable marriage shall operate to annul the marriage only as respects any time after the Order has been made final, and the marriage shall, notwithstanding the Order, be treated as if it had existed up to that time.”

Essentially, this means that if the challenge was successful, the marriage would be deemed to be null and void - but only from the date of the Nullity Order. Therefore the marriage would be treated as if it had existed lawfully up to this date.

This means that, even with a successful challenge to the validity of the marriage, at the time Mr Harrington died, his marriage to Ms Qin was valid. The passage of Mr Harrington’s estate is settled by the position as at the date of his death – he died intestate leaving a surviving spouse. Even if Mr Harrington had made a previous Will prior to his marriage to Ms Qin, the marriage would have revoked that Will and Mr Harrington would still have died intestate.

This case and the increasing number of those similar, highlights why reform is desperately needed to protect vulnerable elderly people from  ‘predatory marriages’ such as this.

If you suspect any friends or loved ones are the victim of a predatory marriage, get in contact with our Wills, Trusts and Estate dispute team today on 01484 821500 or email


The above article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any part of the information given.