A recent High Court decision highlights the importance of creating a new Will, where the testator's intentions have changed

Mrs Moore's 2008 Will left her estate in four equal parts between her three children and her son-in-law Mr Sykes. On her death in 2016, an envelope containing a certified copy of her Will (dated in 2010), an unsigned draft Will, and an invoice from her solicitors for the preparation of the 2008 Will was found. An original Codicil (a document which amends the Will) dated in 2010 was also found, which changed Mrs Moore's appointed executors. The original Will was absent from the envelope and was never found. Further Mrs Moore's solicitors did not have any record of the original Will, possibly because the firm had changed its storage provider.

Mrs Moore's daughter Debbie Sykes had died in 2015, at which point it is thought she wished to change her Will. Mrs Moore's other daughter, Mrs Blyth, argued that her mother had cancelled the 2008 Will by destroying it, which is why it was not found.. That would mean the statutory intestacy rules (which applies where an individual died without creating a Will) would apply so that. Debbie Sykes' share of her mother's estate would pass to her children and Mr Sykes would receive nothing. Mr Sykes naturally argued the Will was not destroyed.

The Court decided the 2008 Will should be followed because there was not enough evidence to suggest the Will was destroyed. The court was more inclined to believe that Mrs Moore never held the original copy of her Will. It is unusual for professionally prepared Wills to be held at home – because it risks destruction by unhappy relatives, or by a fire or flood, quite apart from loss. Sadly, no-one will ever know for sure what Mrs Moore's intentions were and the family may therefore remain at odds.

This case shows that absence of a clear intention to revoke an existing Will may result in an unfair distribution of the estate and result in large legal and court fees. It is advised that if you wish to change the terms of your Will, you should contact your solicitor.

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