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
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:
……… , revoke all my former wills and codicils and declare this to be my last
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:
- 6th day of May 2018
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
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).