To print this article, all you need to do is register or login on Mondaq.com.
Once you have a will, it is important to keep it under review. Circumstances can change over the years, especially events such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces that may cause you to reconsider your wishes. We recommend that you review your Will every 3-5 years in any case, as the law (particularly tax legislation) can change since your Will was drafted and this may affect whether it is still fit for purpose. Do you need a lawyer to change your will?
It can be tempting to make changes to your will without seeking legal advice, especially when you only want a minor amendment. However, the last case of Ingram v Abraham (as executor of the estate of Joe Louis Abraham (deceased)) and another (2023) EWHC 1982 (Ch) It has highlighted the dangers of doing so.
Joan Abraham (“Jo”) died in February 2021, leaving two adult children, Henrietta and Tom (“the Claimants”) and two siblings – her brothers Simon and Nicholas. Joe was diagnosed with cancer for the first time in 2000 and again in 2017.
Jo signed her first will in 2008, dividing her assets equally between her two children. She updated this in 2019, signing a second will drawn up by Simon. Under the will, he inherited her entire remaining estate, the only other gift being a collection of her books to Nicholas. There was no dispute about the authenticity of the will that was signed and witnessed at home, and it was agreed that the signature was Joe’s. However, there were questions about the initials marked at the bottom of each page and the claimants suggested that these were different from Joe’s usual initials.
The claimants brought the claim on the basis of their mother’s lack of knowledge and consent to the contents of the will. The evidence showed that Jo had long intended to leave everything for the benefit of her children. At a family meeting three weeks before the new will was prepared, Jo reiterated this intention. She has also stated that Simone shared her assets fairly among her children after her death.
In his defence, Simon said Jo called him while he was driving one day and explained what she wanted in the new will. He downloaded a form from the Internet and prepared the will. Email and cc Joe. Simon also claims that he telephoned Joe after the will was drawn up, but this has been hotly disputed by the plaintiffs. On the day of the signing, Jo read the will and read it to her, he said. He said this was just a case in which Jo changed her mind, claiming she found Henrietta ungrateful when she gifted her money during her lifetime, and argued with Tom over Christmas 2018, which led her to rethink her wishes.
The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, believing that Jo intended to leave everything to her children. It was decided that she was likely to believe that she was appointing Simon as her executor and that he would receive her property for the purpose of distributing it to her children in accordance with her stated wishes. The court found that she did not understand that she was leaving her assets to Simon for his own benefit. As a result, the 2008 will was scheduled to be submitted to probate.
His Excellency Judge Berkeley stated in his ruling that the lack of participation of lawyers contributed to the dispute. He noted that if lawyers had been involved, they would have recognized and accurately expressed Jo’s intentions by setting up a trust for the benefit of her children, with Simon appointed to act as trustee. The lack of legal knowledge contributed to the misunderstanding and confusion that led to the claim.
Hiring an attorney to change your will
As this case has shown, it is important to obtain legal advice before making any changes to your will, no matter how small the change. Handwritten amendments to the original will are void, unless the entire will is re-executed with all procedures for signing the original will. It is best to do this at the end of the document and explicitly indicate the amendments. Even if the amendments were made before the will was signed, if your writing is not clear or it cannot be shown that you made the changes before execution, it will be void and the original wording will remain – which may not be what you want.
For small, minor modifications, it may not always be necessary to do so Preparing a new will. It is possible to prepare an addendum, which is a supplementary document that explains the changes you make. This is not always the best solution and a lawyer can advise you on the most appropriate way to amend your will.
Originally published on August 22, 2023
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject. It is advised to take the advice of specialists in such circumstances.
Popular articles on: family and marriage from uk