Thinking about updating your Will? Don’t do it on the back of an envelope!

When one of our clients decides to make a Will, they think through their options carefully. We discuss their wishes with them and advise them of their options. We then take their instructions and prepare a draft Will for their review. Once our client is happy that the Will truly reflects their intentions, they then sign it and it becomes valid. Over time, things change and, sometimes, that means you need to make changes to your Will. However, if you are thinking about updating your Will, please make sure you do it properly! This will help avoid problems in the future when your executors try to work out your intentions.

The case of the late Miss Downey

Miss Mary Downey was born in Ireland but spent most of her adult life living and working as a school teacher in Scotland. In December 2012 she instructed a solicitor to prepare her Will. She signed it and her solicitor sent a copy of the Will to her.

Miss Downey returned to Ireland in 2017 and passed away in 2019. After her death, her executors discovered that in 2015 she had made some handwritten notes on the envelope containing the copy of her Will. In addition, she had added her signature.

Her executors considered that she must have been thinking about updating her Will in 2015. However, to make sure they were interpreting the handwritten notes properly, they petitioned the Commissary Court. They asked the court to confirm that the handwritten notes should form part of the Will.

In essence, the executors argued that the handwritten notes had the intention or removing two beneficiaries from the Will and substituting two other beneficiaries in their place.

What did the Court decide?

Having heard the evidence, the sheriff ruled that the words did not contain any “testamentary intent”. Because of that, he decided that the handwritten notes did not change the original Will. This is a very interesting case full of many details about Miss Downey and her way of life. In addition, whilst the case was not defended, the sheriff did speak to other family members who would be affected by the outcome of the case. You can read the sheriff’s judgement by clicking here.

Why is this case important if you are thinking about updating your Will?

This case is important. It shows that even if you think you are doing the right thing by making handwritten notes and signing them, if they are not clear and do not contain testamentary intent, then your wishes might not be followed.

If you are thinking about updating your Will, it is essential that you do it properly. Fairly simple changes can be made using a Codicil. This is a document that contains the changes you wish to make and it is read in conjunction with your original Will. If the changes you wish to make are more extensive, we recommend that you make a new Will. This will rule out any ambiguity, confusion or conflict with your original Will.

When you make your Will, you decide who should inherit your estate after your death. When things change and you wish to update your Will, you need to take the same care with those changes as you did when you prepared your original Will.

What should I do next?

If you are thinking about updating your Will, please get in touch with us. If you do not yet have a Will, we would encourage you to draw one up. In either case, just complete the following short form and we will be in touch to arrange to get the process started.​

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