“My issue” – considering the meaning of “issue” in wills

The primary legal meaning of “issue”

“Issue” is a technical legal term used in succession and inheritance law and some discretionary trusts.  “Issue” is not defined in wills and succession legislation even though it occurs in some legislative provisions. Its legal meaning has been developed under  the general (common) law going back to at least 16th century English cases. 

The High Court has said that ‘issue’ is a word with a clear prima facie legal meaning.  It means descendants or progeny, and is not limited to children.1,2  Prima facie means at first instance.

Under the general law the “issue” of a person means all of their lineal descendants by blood of every degree, including their children.  That is, your “issue” includes not just your children but all of your lineal descendants of all degrees – your children, grandchildren, great-children  and so down the line without limit. See infographics. This is the primary legal meaning of issue.  

Adopted children – while the primary meaning of issue is about blood relations, legally adopted children can be described as “issue” in certain circumstances and by the operation of the adoption  statutes. 

my issue, children, issue and children, grandchildren, descendants, inheritance, wills, deceased,

Spouses/partners are not issue and so not shown.

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A mistake found in the will – can it be fixed or rectified?

Sometimes it is not until after a will-maker dies, when their executor is applying for a grant of probate, or seeking to administer the estate, that some kind of administrative mistake is discovered in the will.  For example words used in the will, or some mis-description, operate to prevent the will-maker’s intentions from being put into effect.  Resolving the problem usually requires making an application to the Court.  This causes expense and delay.

It is unfortunate that such genuine clerical mistakes or ambiguities are not picked up during will-making. Can anything be done when they are discovered after death?  Can they be fixed so as to preserve what the deceased intended to happen?  Or will it result in an intestacy?

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