Writing on back of envelope not enough to alter woman's will

A court has ruled that informal writing on the back of an envelope was not enough to challenge the terms of a woman’s will. 

The woman had made will in 2012 with the help of her solicitor. 

After her death in 2019 at the age of 93, some writing was found on an envelope containing the will.  

Under the heading JANUARY 2015, the writing appeared to alter two of the bequests contained in the will by disinheriting a certain nephew and passing the benefit to another nephew, and by passing the benefit originally due to her predeceasing brother to a third nephew. 

Two executrixes of the will applied to the court for certification that the informal writing had been executed by the deceased with testamentary intent and was consequently to be considered as an adjunct or codicil. 

The court refused the application. 

It held that the 2012 will was a probative deed and so enjoyed a legal status that deserved respect and, while its terms were not insurmountable, it could not easily be brushed aside or altered.  

The intention of the writer of the informal writing was not clear from the words used. There was no operative clause which clearly and succinctly informed the reader what the writer's intention was and what was to be done.  

Put another way, testamentary language had not been used. The closest the informal writing came to testamentary language was the use of the word "alterations", but the informal writing could have been in contemplation of making alterations as much as their actual implementation. 

The evidence from what was written, where it was written and where it was found failed to persuade the court that the deceased had intended to alter the clear and probative testamentary writing that was her 2012 will. 

Clients engaged solicitors to draw up their wills to ensure that their testamentary intentions were carried into effect, and it would be unsatisfactory if that could easily be disturbed. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.