Here at Bequeathed, we’ve been digging into the archives. It provides an occasional diversion for us, as we try and make the business of making wills as straightforward as possible, to see just how people have managed to achieve the exact opposite. And we don’t always have to go back that far, either.
So here’s a little gem for you, which falls squarely into the category of ‘muddles that could have been avoided’…
A couple of decades ago, or thereabouts, a lady made a will containing two specific bequests to particular people (in addition to leaving the remainder of the estate to be shared between various others). We’re going to call this the First Will: clever, eh?
Five months later she made a codicil (a formal way of amending a will) adding a third specific bequest.
And then, seven months later she made a new will, revoking the first one and the codicil. In this new will, one of the original two bequests was omitted. We’re going to call this… We don’t need to tell you, do we?
After this, nothing happened for over 4 years. Until…
The lady made another codicil. And this is the point at which it becomes confusing. Because this new codicil was drawn up by her solicitors, who were unaware of the Second Will. Which means it wasn’t a codicil to the Second Will, but the First Will. (You’ll remember from the previous paragraph that the First Will had been revoked).
The big change made by this new codicil was to increase one of the specific bequests in the First Will. And if you hadn’t already guessed where we were heading, the gift which was increased was the one which was left out of the Second Will. To make it even more significant, the size of that gift - originally £100,000 - had been increased to £250,000.
‘Just hold on a minute there’, you cry. ‘How can you change a revoked will? It’s gone. Finished. An ex-will, in fact. There’s nothing there to amend.’
But the court reached a different conclusion. And rightly so, because actually a revoked will can be revived. How? Well, by re-executing the will or making a codicil which shows that it was clearly the intention of the testator to revive it.
In this case, the new codicil (said the court) clearly showed that the lady intended to revive the First Will. The ‘only possible conclusion’ was that the First Will was reinstated and the Second Will revoked.
It would perhaps have been simpler to make a Third Will. No, we’ll go further than that: it would definitely have been simpler to make a Third Will. It seems to us that multiple wills and codicils that leapfrog each other are no good for anything except providing work for litigators and plots for whodunnits.
Just keep it simple.
And if you need to know more, follow our guidance on when to review your will.