Having a valid will in place is essential for anyone who wants their assets to be distributed in line with their wishes. As a recent case highlights, problems may arise when there are too many wills to consider, as this can lead to estate disputes being filed by the various beneficiaries.
A man was found to have written a total of six wills between 1998 and 2012, along with one codicil. Although each of the documents had been prepared with the help of a solicitor and had been initiated by the deceased, this hasn't prevented a will dispute from occurring.
The 85-year-old was estimated to have around $4.34 million in assets to be distributed among his beneficiaries. In addition to the wills he produced, two other documents had been composed.
The Guide is a hand-written document that is firmly believed to have been composed by the deceased. None of the pages within it have been signed or initialled, nor are there any dates indicated when they had been written. No reference is made to the will and there are names and addresses of people he wished to receive certain shares or proportions of is money.
As for the Screed, this is almost identical to the Guide. It also contains the names of people and institutions, as well as the amounts they should be allocated in the event of the man's death.
If this were the case, a family friend of the man stood to be the primary beneficiary of his house. However, the deceased's sisters argued that both the Guide and Screed were written before the will, therefore making them irrelevant.
The presiding judge made the decision that the final 2012 will would govern who received which assets. This was in part due to the fact that some of the shares named in the Guide and Screed had already been sold, suggesting the document was composed afterwards.
This case highlights the need to be thorough when it comes to writing a will. Even the slightest element of confusion can be used in an estate dispute, which can create friction among family and friends. Having a will in place is just the start - it needs to be accurate in order for assets to be distributed accordingly. Any amendments made must be legally sound and completed with the help of a legal professional.
In some cases, it might be possible to add a codicil. More extensive changes, on the other hand, may require a new will to be written completely.