A will is not a document that has to be set in stone during your lifetime. The great thing about a will is that you can treat it as a living, breathing document in that you can make changes to it when appropriate. We understand that your life is not stagnant. You will get married, have children, maybe get separated, your finances will go through different ups and downs, and the property you accumulate will change. Because we know that your life is evolving, one of the perks we had for our clients who have an Estate Package with us and are part of our family is to provide free amendments for the rest of your lives! If you want to change your will, do it the proper way, so that there’s no question as to the validity of the changes in your will when you pass away.
In Ontario, there are strict rules with respect to making changes to your will. The best thing to do if you have changes, is to get your lawyer to make the amendments. Amendments to your will are done through a Codicil. In our firm, to keep things simple and to ensure you don’t have multiple documents laying around, we more likely than not will re-do your Will with the requested amendments.
However, what happens if you made changes to the will by writing directly on your will? According to Section 18 of the Succession Law Reform Act, to be considered a valid will in this circumstance, the changes must:
Be accompanied by your signature;
Signed by at least two witnesses.
Also, if the handwritten will meets the requirements of a holographic will, as discussed in one of our other blogs, then this may be considered a valid will as well.
In the case of Gibbon Estate v. Sleeping Children Around the World, the deceased had made a handwritten will in 1989 that was also signed by two witnesses. In 1994, she executed a formal will prepared by a lawyer, which she later made handwritten changes to. She also made handwritten changes on the 1989 will. In this case, the judge decided that while the deceased initialed some of the changes to the 1989 will, she did not sign any of them. Therefore, the alterations did not amount to a valid codicil. The judge also considered the handwritten changes in the 1994 will. He found that because they were entirely in the handwriting of the deceased and had been signed by her they qualified as a codicil.
There are also common law criteria regarding how original wording is deleted in a will and amended by new wording. Therefore, this is not something you should do on your own and we strongly recommend you seek the assistance of a professional.
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