From time to time, people may have to make changes to their Will. Sometimes, the changes needed may seem simple; like changing your Executor or the amount that you want to give to one of your beneficiaries. It can be tempting to handwrite the changes a copy of the Will or even on the original, rather than going to the cost of writing a new Will. The issue is whether handwritten amendments to your Will are valid.
The two options to formally amend a Will, no matter how significant or minor, are:
For either a Will or a Codicil to be formally valid:
The option that is chosen will typically depend on:
By formally amending your Will (either with a new Will or annexing a Codicil), there is far greater certainty that the changes you have made will be effective in achieving your intentions.
Updating a Will by making minor changes or preparing a Codicil through a lawyer will come at a cost. Depending on the changes requested, that cost may be less than the cost of a new Will. Feel free to contact us for an indication of what those costs may be before making your decision.
In NSW, the Succession Act does include provisions which allow the Court to recognise a Will or Codicil that does not strictly comply with the requirements for a formally valid Will or Codicil.
Examples of documents that may be recognised as informal Wills include:
Most of the above options can be carried out without the involvement of a lawyer and do not come with the cost of engaging a lawyer to make the changes.
It can be tempting to try to make the amendments yourself to avoid incurring any additional costs, particularly when such a change can seem so simple. But, attempting to make informal Wills comes with a risk, and the potential of costing your estate (and therefore your family) far greater than the cost of the formal amendment to the document. This is similar to the risks associated with DIY Will kits.
Take the example of a Will-maker, Alex, handwriting the changes she wanted to make, over a copy of her former Will.
There are two possible outcomes to this scenario:
Even if Greg was not successful in his challenges, if his attempts require the Executor to seek legal advice to attempt to defend the challenge, then the legal costs incurred would significantly exceed the cost of amending the Will formally in the first place.
By preparing your Will with the assistance of a lawyer, you are ensuring greater certainty that the Will is valid. The wealth you have accumulated, and the financial security that it would provide for your loved ones, are too important for short cuts to be taken.
Informal Wills can be recognised, but they often come with a greater degree of uncertainty, and greater room for arguments to arise among beneficiaries. Trying to save costs now, can result in your family being left with expensive and uncertain Court cases when trying to ensure that your wishes are upheld.
If you have been thinking about changes to your Will, but aren't sure where to start or what the cost would be, speak with your legal adviser as soon as possible. Call us if we can help.
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This article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact E&A Lawyers.
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