When people seek to make a homemade Will ‘on the cheap’ without professional advice, it can cause additional stress and anxiety for the Willmaker’s family if a dispute arises as to the meaning of the Will with associated costs of litigation to resolve issues depleting the estate. A recent case serves as a timely reminder of why expending time and money on a professionally drawn Will now “is a sound investment” for the future.
The deceased died in 2017. The deceased was survived by her husband and her two children. The deceased left only a modest estate. When she died, the deceased left a homemade Will. By her Will the deceased sought to make a gift of a particular residence with a direction that the residence was not to be sold “until majority of the residing tenants agree to the action. I wish my children to remain in abode as long as it is deemed reasonable” (‘the first clause’). After making a number of other gifts, a subsequent clause in the Will empowered the Executor to sell assets in the estate on such terms as he considered expedient (‘the subsequent clause’).
As the Will was not clear and the beneficiaries adopted different positions on what they viewed the Will to mean, the Executor applied to the Court for directions as to the proper interpretation of the Will.
The Court observed that the subsequent clause of the Will was quite difficult to reconcile with the rest of the Will. Having made quite specific directions in the first clause of the Will, the subsequent clause appeared to get the Executor to ignore the first clause of the Will entirely. On the face of it at least, the Court observed “it was not possible to reconcile” the first clause with the subsequent clause of the Will.
After undertaking a review of the rules to be applied when construing a Will, the Court ultimately determined there was “no alternative” but to conclude that the first clause of the Will was void for uncertainty. When the wide ambit of the subsequent clause is added in “it is simply not possible to give a construction of this Will which makes sense”.
The consequence was a partial intestacy which resulted in the share of the deceased’s husband in the estate being enlarged by the addition of the gift of the particular residence that failed in the first clause of the Will.
Where the Court has to determine the proper interpretation of a homemade Will, “there is no doubt a good part of the estate will be consumed in a contest over the meaning of what by any measure is a difficult document. It is invariably the case that money spent on having a Will professionally drafted is a sound investment”.
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