Adrian: But wait, there’s more.

Hello, Adrian Corbould, Accredited Specialist, Wills & Estates, Turnbull Hill Lawyers, with the Battle of Wills series, where I talk about contested estates and wills generally.

Remember those dreadful ads back in the ’90s, and last decade where it just seemed to never end. The ad just went on and on and on. Well, that can be like a will.

Generally, you want a will to be one document and that covers everything, but there are these things called codicils. What’s a codicil? A codicil is a separate supplementary document that ties in with the will. What it does, is it makes generally minor changes to that original will. It might change the name of the executor. It might change a gift to a particular person, but it has to be exact. It must specifically refer to that original will that it’s making the change to.

They can be very problematic because you have to have both original documents to probate them. Why do these codicils come about? Well, historically, wills had to be handwritten out because they didn’t have laser printers and photocopiers and all the things we have today. A scrivener would have to handwrite out a will. If there was any change, as we’ve talked about before, the problems with changing a will, it would appear far superior document if it was handwritten in full.

That would take a lot of time if it was a multi-page will. What they would do is make a codicil so they’d have the original will, but let’s say the testator wants to change the name of an executor. Rather than rewrite out the whole document that might be eight pages. A codicil, a separate document would say, “This is a codicil to the will of name, dated this date,” and it will change it.

We’ve established that these codicils exist being a document that you think it’s the end, it’s the will, but then there’s another extra, we have to deal with them. There can be problems with these codicils, the same as with just having an original will. One could be, is it valid? Does this codicil correctly refer to the right date of this will? Anything that’s inconsistent it may be deemed invalid.

Do we have the original of the codicil? Do we just have a photocopy? If we have a photocopy, can it be presumed that the will-maker intended to destroy the original? Lots and lots of problems. The date of the codicil, is it a long time between the date of the original will and the date of the codicil? If so, questions might be raised. Why didn’t the will-maker just make a whole new will?

All these things very problematic when you’ve got multiple documents that form a person’s testamentary intentions. What can be done about it? Well, now that we have computers, laser printers, just draft a whole new will, much easier. You want to change the name of an executor, make a whole new will, change the gift to someone, make a whole new will. It’s got a new date, it’s recorded on the date that it’s executed, and it’s one document that exists in itself.

I hope this has been of some use. Talk again, next time.

Turnbull Hill Lawyers, and specifically Adrian Corbould and Mary Windeyer, have been named in the prestigious 2023 Doyles Guide. Both were also listed in the 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019 guides.

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