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Wills

Wills – too much court intervention required

An extraordinary number of wills seem to be being put to the court for correction of late.  In the recent case of Re Estate Valerie Cliff Bryce  a will containing a series of clerical and arithmetic errors was corrected by order of the court.  However, the case serves to highlight concern over the number of will errors that require judicial intervention.  Priestley J noted that “I suspect the problem lies with current equipment used to produce legal documents, the structure of law firms, and insufficient care and attention being paid by the responsible partner or solicitor at the time a will is executed.”

It can be postulated that the increasing rate of errors perhaps reflects the low return for drafting a will and the fact that limited partner time can be justifed to meet the market assessment of the value of a will.  While writing this I can almost hear my grandmother saying “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly”, and of course wills need to be done properly as the chance to revisit or repair will almost always be compromised due to the unavailability of the key protagonist.  Perhaps will-makers also need to take more responsibility for ensuring the will that is signed is a correct reflect of their wishes.  This is not an attempt to pass the buck, simply an observation that will-makers need to ensure a will meets their wishes.  That said, where the costs to correct a will are met from the estate, it is effectively to the will-maker’s cost.  Not that that was a problem in Re Estate Valerie Cliff Bryce –  in this case the court did not entertain the idea for one moment that the estate should bear the cost for the sloppy  drafting.

Anyone drafting wills needs to ensure sufficient time and attention for the task; and if the fee is not enough to allow this, the prudent response is either to increase the fee for this sometimes incredibly important last document, or simply decline to offer the service.

References:

  • Re Estate Valerie Cliff Bryce [2013] NZHC 2089
  • Re Estate Jean Garner [2013] NZHC 42
  • Re Estate Jean Gillies Gibon [2013] NZHC 1524

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