We make a will so as to provide for our loved ones; to be able to choose who will inherit our property. But writing down our intentions so that they are clear and unambiguous for others when we are no longer around, is not easy. For example take the words “issue” and “children”. The word “issue” is a legal term meaning all of a person’s descendants; not just their children.
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?
Storing a will for safekeeping
Wills are important private and confidential documents. An original will should be stored in a safe and secure place after being signed and witnessed. Ideally the place should be fireproof and the like. Depending on the status of family relationships, if kept at home, it the document should be protected from tampering or destruction. And don’t forget to inform your executors where the will is located.
Probate law requires that the original will be attached to an application for a grant of probate from the court. Without it, the timely administration of the deceased’s estate is delayed until the situation is resolved. A summary of the usual approaches to storing a will follows.
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common give different outcomes when an owner dies
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are ways of owning property with others. Each works differently when an owner dies, see graphic below. This impacts who will inherit the deceased owner’s share. These graphics seek to highlight how each tenancy works.
In a joint tenancy, when one owner dies, the surviving one automatically owns the whole property. This happens independently of any will (and probate) because of the right of survivorship attaching to this tenancy type.