If handwritten changes to a will are made, is the will legally valid?
It is not unusual for people to want to change or update their will.
To change your will you should either make a codicil to the existing will or revoke the will and make a completely new one.
However, once your will has been signed and witnessed you should never be tempted to change it by making handwritten changes.
We have dealt with a number of disputes that have arisen as a result of handwritten changes to a will being made. People often fail to appreciate just how technical English law can be where wills are concerned. For a will to be valid, the requirements of a very old piece of legislation, the Wills Act of 1837, must be followed to the letter. Any departure from those requirements could lead to a legal dispute arising and may result in all or part of the will being declared invalid.
If someone passes away leaving a will that they have made handwritten changes to, then specialist legal advice should be taken immediately. We will need to consider:
a) when those changes were likely to have been made (before execution or after execution);
b) whether those changes are likely to be accepted as valid by the probate registry; and
b) whether the changes invalidate all or part of the will as originally executed.
Although it is not good practice to make handwritten changes to a will before it has been executed, there are situations in which this does occur. This might include correcting mistakes in the spelling of a name or an address. In these circumstances the amendment should be initialled by both the person making the will and their two witnesses.
Amendments to wills that have already been executed are likely to be far more problematic and disputes can arise as to whether an amendment was made before or after execution.
In the absence of clear evidence as to when the amendment was made, the Probate Registry is likely to assume that the alteration was made after the will was executed and does not therefore form part of the original legally valid will.
The terms of any amendment to a will that has not been carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Wills Act will not have any effect. However, where such an amendment renders the original text of the will unclear then that original text itself is likely to be disregarded when the will is implemented. The consequences of this can be far reaching and have serious adverse consequences for named beneficiaries.
So, if you are dealing with an estate where handwritten changes to a will have been made and you require expert legal guidance from lawyers who are experienced in dealing with such disputes then contact our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0404 or send an email to [email protected]