Dealing with drafting errors in wills and changing the terms of wills

6th January 2015 by

Ben Parr-Ferris, Senior Litigator, Contentious Probate team of Healys, continues his series of articles explaining the different ways in which Wills and Probates are contested. 

It is perhaps more common than you might imagine that a Will has errors in it.  More often than not the errors are obvious and lead to no confusion – everyone knows what was meant and no one benefits from disputing its terms.  Occasionally, an error is much more difficult though, especially when it leaves uncertainty over what property should pass to which beneficiaries.

If all the beneficiaries agree on what needs to be done, a deed of variation can be drawn up that changes the Will to a form that the beneficiaries agree on.

If there is no agreement, it may be necessary to apply to the court to have the Will rectified.  In these cases, the court assesses what the testator’s intention was when he made the Will and the Will can be rewritten to reflect that intention.  There are limits on when rectification is available to resolve errors, and occasionally it will not be possible to do so.

In cases where rectification is not possible and there is no agreement, a beneficiary who should have inherited can be left with nothing.  In these cases, it is often possible to bring a claim against the solicitor who prepared the will; if the will drafting was negligent a disappointed beneficiary may be able to get damages from the solicitor.

In other cases, the beneficiaries of a will might want the terms of the will to be changed, not because of an error but because there are other benefits to them of having the estate handled in a different way.  An example is where restructuring an estate will keep inheritance tax to a minimum, leaving more money for the beneficiaries.

If you require any further information on this topic or the services we offer please contact Ben Parr-Ferris on 020 7822 4104 or email ben.parr-ferris@healys.com.