An invalid will can cause heartache, confusion, frustration and expense to those left behind when a loved one passes away.

Something as simple as forgetting to sign a document or not making time to visit a solicitor to change the terms of a will, can be seemingly small oversights which cause significant issues if a person passes away unexpectedly.

There are, however, some situations in which a seemingly-unofficial will may actually be legally acceptable.

While the legalities around preparing and executing a will are largely technical, the legislation also allows for ‘informal’ wills, which may not be bound by all of the expected formal requirements.

For example, if a person meets with their solicitor and requests a change to their will, the solicitor can write an ‘informal will’ immediately, before the original will has been formally amended and signed. This informal document may not include all the technical elements of a will, but may be legally acceptable because it outlines the client’s express wishes. Should the client pass away before the original will is amended and signed, the ‘informal will’ acts as a legal alternative.

Where a dispute over a will ends up in court, Section 8 of the Succession Act 2006 gives the court the power to consider the following with regard to ‘informal wills’:

  1. Is there a document?
  2. Does this document record the intentions of the deceased as to what should happen upon their death?
  3. Is there evidence of action or words in which the deceased made clear their intention for this document - without anything additional - to constitute their will?

It is always best to err on the side of caution and ensure your will is properly prepared and kept up to date with regards to your wishes. However, the legal recognition of an ‘informal will’ means that there is a mechanism for allowing lawyers to quickly give effect to your wishes, even though this may not be in the form of a printed will.

For further information contact Hadyn Oriti on ph 02 6583 0449.

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