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When is a Will a Will?

I recently read with interest a news article about a woman who tried to claim a share of her secret lover’s multimillion dollar estate. Her claim was based on a document which she alleged was the deceased’s last Will, which left her all of his $3.4 million Estate.

Suspicions about the “Will”

The woman’s claim failed on a number of grounds, but in particular the Court considered the content of the document she produced. The Court considered the following aspects of the document “suspicious”:

  1. The deceased’s name was hand written on the document, but not signed;
  2. The deceased’s middle name was misspelt;
  3. The solicitor who allegedly prepared the Will has since died and there was no record of preparing the Will found at his office.

The Court also considered that the deceased’s nephew, who said he visited the deceased every day, had never heard of the woman.

What does a Court consider when looking at a disputed Will?

When the preparation or content of a Will is in dispute, the Court will consider each document on a case by case basis. There are, however, things the Court will usually consider, including:

  1. Whether the Will was witnessed, and by whom;
  2. Whether the deceased had the capacity to make a Will;
  3. Whether the Will which is claimed to be the most current Will is significantly different from an earlier version, and the reasons for the differences;
  4. The circumstances in which the Will was made, including whether there were any beneficiaries in the room at the time instructions were given and whether there is any evidence that the Will was made under duress; and
  5. Who prepared the Will, and whether they are able to be questioned about its preparation.

If you feel that there is uncertainty about the preparation or content of a Will, or you wish to contest a Will, you should contact an experienced estate administration lawyer. Please contact me if you would like advice or assistance regarding a disputed will.

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Written by—

Chloe Kopilovic

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