Dating in Style in 2020.

This is a quick note of caution for anyone considering updating their Will in 2020 (or indeed dating any legal document during this year).

The Wills Act 1837 sets out the requirements for a Will to be valid. It may come as a surprise but a Will does not have to be dated but in practice it is always recommended particularly because there are a number of life events that impact on a Will’s validity.

If a Will is not dated it would be very hard to be certain as to whether it was made before or after a person divorced or married and in such cases the Registrar may refuse to accept the document on face value.

Secondly, many people make more than one Will during their lifetime, often reflecting very different wishes depending on the circumstances of their life at the time. In the absence of a date it would be extremely difficult for someone to work out which Will reflected the testator’s final intentions.

For these reasons professional Will drafters always date the Will and usually include a revocation clause, often in the following terms:

‘ I ……… , revoke all my former wills and codicils and declare this to be my last will’

The clause ensures that if there are multiple Wills, the executors can be reassured that they are acting on the final intentions by simply looking to the dates the Wills were executed.

However the next 12 months present a unique difficulty.  Many people when writing the date only include the decade, not the century. This provides an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage and alter the date, and in turn validity, of a Will:

  1. 6th day of May 2018
  2. 6/5/18
  3. 6/5/20
  4. 6/5/2014

Example 1 is written in a way that I would encourage; for the date to be changed an amendment would be obvious in which case a certain procedure would then have had to be followed.

Unfortunately Example 3, which I believe is a common date style, allows for the simple insertion of the number ‘14’ i.e. Example 4. This makes the Will 6 years older and Example 1 would become a valid Will. Whilst one would hope that no one who had access to a person’s Will would act in this manner I know from experience that this is not always the case. Therefore, to prevent this unfortunate possibility I would recommend one thing – come to Mundays (or failing that, at the very least ensure the date is written in full).

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