What problems exist when there are too many wills?

Published 20 Nov 2017

Author: David Cossalter

Writing a will is crucial to estate planning, as it provides a clear description of how your assets should be distributed upon your death. But can you have too much of a good thing?

We recently delved into some of the research regarding the proportion of people who die without writing a will in Australia. However, producing too many wills can also lead to confusion and inheritance disputes.

Here are four reasons why:

1. Not all the wills may be valid

Section 6 of the Succession Act 2006 outlines the measures you must take to produce a valid will. However, people who regularly change or update their will may not fulfil the necessary steps to validate the document.

If the courts rule that the most recent will should be disregarded, a previous version must be used instead. This can be a challenging task in circumstances where the deceased had multiple wills.

2. The deceased may lack testamentary capacity

Writing multiple wills, especially over a short period of time, could indicate the deceased was having difficulty deciding how to distribute their estate when they died. This could be for various reasons, such as disputes with beneficiaries, a change in wealth or the birth or death of loved ones.

Nevertheless, some people frequently write new wills when they become confused or forgetful due to dementia and other cognitive illnesses. Claimants may argue that producing several wills in quick succession shows the deceased lacked testamentary capacity.

3. The wills may not be recent

Even when multiple wills exist, the deceased may not have produced one close enough to their date of death for the document to be relevant.

NSW Trustee & Guardian suggests updating your will every five years, or when a life-changing event occurs. However, a lot can happen in five years, and some people may not be diligent enough to remember to keep updating their will.

4. Multiple wills can suggest doubt

One of the factors that judges consider when ruling on a family provision claim is the deceased's testamentary intention. In other words, what did the writer of the will want to happen to their estate?

The courts don't take the decision to disregard a testator's final wishes lightly, but they may be influenced if the deceased seemed to be having trouble making up their own mind. This doubt can pave the way for an inheritance dispute.

Would you like to know more about contesting a will in NSW? Call Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers today for a free consultation.

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