Confused about detail in "A mysterious Affair at Styles"

lokier01lokier01 Long Beach, United States
Getting right to it. (spoilers?)

Irene made a will to Alfred prior to marriage.
Irene/Alfred get married.
Irene makes another will to Alfred. (due to nullification concern?)
Irene finds out about Alfred and destroys the will.

What was her reason for destroying the will?   Wouldn't the inheritance still go to Alfred?


  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    I'm not sure who "Irene" is.  Here's what happened in Styles.

    Mr. Cavendish had two sons, John and Lawrence, with his wife.

    The first Mrs. Cavendish died.

    Mr. Cavendish married Emily.

    Mr. Cavendish dies.  Under the terms of the will, Emily is owner of Styles for life (Under the terms of firstborn son inheritance, John inherited Styles outright once his stepmother Emily died) and is given most of her husband's money (Some of that money becomes hers outright, but a large sum of that cash inheritance from her late husband goes directly to Lawrence when she dies.).

    Over the next few years, Emily Cavendish changes her will annually.  Right before her second marriage, all her cash goes to John, the reasoning being that Lawrence will get a huge sum of money from his late father's estate, and John will need a lot of money to keep up Styles.  (This does not include several tiny bequests left to servants.)

    Emily marries Alfred Inglethorpe.  Under the law, if she doesn't have a will, Alfred will inherit all the cash Emily owns, although Styles still goes to John (though he wouldn't get any additional money to run it) and Lawrence gets the cash earmarked from his father's will.

    Emily makes a secret will right before she dies after quarreling with John about his suspected relationship with a pretty farmer's wife,  but does not register it with her lawyer.  In it, she leaves all of her considerable money to her husband (a couple of snooping servants found the will and read it).


    Emily discovers the revealing letter from Alfred to Ms. Howard.  Realizing her husband may want her dead, she burns the will.  Technically, this doesn't change the basic balance of inheritance, but if her husband is convicted of killing her, then the money would go to her next of kin, probably either John or both John and Lawrence, depending on the law, which I am not certain about right now.
  • lokier01lokier01 Long Beach, United States
    edited April 2017
    Thank you for responding GKCfan, it is quite hard to find other people to talk about this novel with.

    So the part that concerns me is "Technically this doesnt change the basic balance of inheritance".  Im having trouble seeing her motivation for destroying the will, except her wanting to make things slightly more difficult for Alfred if she ends up being murdered.
  • edited April 2017
    Just a guess - but according to Israeli law, which is based on English law, If a person dies  without a valid will and is survived by a legal spouse, half his/her property goes to the spouse, and the rest is evenly divided between the children, (or if any children died and left grandchildren then the grandchildren divide their parent's share). The marriage invalidates any previous will, so that at the time of the marriage the husband would inherit half and the sons a quarter each. The subsequent will leaving everything to her husband gives him double what he would get if there was no will. By burning the will, she dies intestate (without a valid will), and therefore deprives her husband of half his inheritance - the most she can do without writing a new will, which she probably would have done if she had had time. Of course, SPOILER once he is convicted of her murder he won't inherit anything, since by law he cannot benifit by his crime.  
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    You're welcome!  It's not completely clear, but I think Mrs. Inglethorpe planned to write another will, probably in favor of her stepson Lawrence, since she just quarreled with John.  However, she died before she could write up a new will.

    Of course, her solicitor makes it clear that he wasn't completely sure if Mrs. Inglethorpe understood the laws of inheritance...
  • lokier01lokier01 Long Beach, United States
    Thanks, I think we're on the same page then.

  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    Oh, good!  If you have anything else you'd like to discuss, please post it.  We gotta get more people talking on these boards!
  • KathleenWagnerKathleenWagner Alexandria, Virginia
    It's even more complicated than that.  If  Emily dies intestate, her property (which is the money, Styles Court being a Cavendish possession) goes to HER next-of-kin . . . and I don't think stepchildren were kin for purposes of inheritance in the absence of a will.  She had a husband, and he would inherit her property.  After he was convicted of murdering her, however, the property would go to her next-of-kin after that - a cousin in some degree, probably.  Remember, this took place before the Intestacy Act of 1926, which cut off inheritance by persons related more distantly than spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.  Her next-of-kin after Alfred would inherit even if it turned out to be a seventh cousin.  As great as is my respect for Miss Christie, I must say I think she missed this point.  I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who had studied this aspect of estate law for the period before the new act came into force in 1926, and could tell for sure if Emily Inglethorpe's stepsons were debarred from inheritance upon her death intestate.
Sign In or Register to comment.