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Adrian Corbould: Will alterations, liquid nightmare, also known as the most expensive bottle of liquid paper.

Hi, I’m Adrian Corbould, Accredited Specialist, Wills & Estates at Turnbull Hill. An example of the kind of work I handle. Recently, a lady came to me, I’ll call her Julia. She gave me two wills. The first will was a photocopy of a will that was perfectly made. She was named the coexecutor and she received a substantial cash benefit in that will.

It was also executed perfectly. The will-maker signed it and it was witnessed by two people. She also gave me another will which was a photocopy of the same will but on it, there was an alteration. There was a significant difference. Someone, possibly the will-maker, got some liquid paper and whited out her name, where she was the executor, and whited out her gift. Underneath that, there were handwritten words that said, with an arrow pointing to the liquid paper, “This is what I want”, and some initials, the initials of the will-maker.

Quite clearly, that was an alteration to the original will. What the law says is that when you alter a valid will, that alteration is not valid unless the alteration has been executed as if it was a will. That means, it has to have been signed by the will-maker and has to have been witnessed by two people. That would mean, for that amendment or that alteration to be valid, there would signatures all over it. It would be a hell of a mess but it could still be deemed to be valid.

Whoever is going to probate that will is going to have a heck of a time in convincing a court that that is the valid last will because the will-maker did not do the addons bits of having it re-executed. As we’ve talked about in the past, a will has to be in writing, and it has to be signed by the will-maker and witnessed by two people. If those things aren’t done, questions are raised by the court and the person propounding the will for probate will have to put on a tonne of additional evidence to prove that the will-maker intended for that document to be their last will.

What’s going to happen in this matter is there’s going to be a probably very long-drawn-out legal argument, possibly costing a lot of money to determine what did the deceased last intend. Because it could be construed that that wasn’t his last will, that he was just revising it, didn’t have a plan to make it his last will, any number of questions.

Anyway, what can be done to avoid that? Very simply, make a valid will and if you want to amend it, you either get it re-executed or preferably, just make a whole fresh new will from scratch. That’d be the best thing.

Hope this has been of some interest. Talk again next time.

Turnbull Hill Lawyers, and specifically Adrian Corbould and Mary Windeyer, have been named in the prestigious 2022 Doyles Guide. Both were also listed in the 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 guides.

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