The pitfalls of an illegible Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that outlines a person’s final wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the care of their dependents after their passing. While the contents of a will hold immense importance, the legibility of the document itself is often overlooked. Illegible Wills can present significant challenges, jeopardizing the validity of the document and leading to legal disputes among beneficiaries. 

Legibility plays a critical role in ensuring that the intentions of the testator (the person creating the Will) are accurately conveyed. An illegible Will can create confusion and ambiguity, making it difficult for executors, beneficiaries, and the court to interpret the document’s provisions. When a will is unclear, the court may be forced to rely on other evidence or witnesses, potentially leading to lengthy legal battles and disputes among family members.

Challenges Posed by Illegible Last Wills

  1. Ambiguity: Illegible Last Will often contain words or phrases that are hard to decipher, leading to ambiguity. This ambiguity can result in differing interpretations among beneficiaries, potentially causing familial discord and legal battles.

  2. Invalidity: A will that is illegible may raise concerns about the testator’s mental capacity or their understanding of the document’s contents. If a court determines that the testator did not fully comprehend or approve the terms of the will, it may be declared invalid.

  3. Disputed Authenticity: An illegible Will can lead to challenges regarding its authenticity. Beneficiaries or interested parties may question whether the document was indeed created by the testator, casting doubt on its legitimacy.

  4. Emotional Distress: The distribution of assets after someone’s passing is an emotionally charged process. Illegible last wills only exacerbate the stress and grief experienced by loved ones, as they struggle to understand the testator’s true intentions.

One Aussie couple found out about this the hard way, when their inheritance from their deceased friend’s Last Will and Testament, Howard Edwin Thomas, was denied to them on this basis. Thomas had drawn up an illegible Last Will and Testament. Thomas, a deceased former banker from Australia, passed away in July of 2011. His friends, Richard and Deborah Nightingale, were co-executors of his estate. Thomas’s three-page Last Will and Testament was found in 2011, and was practically lost in a “pile of paper” on his kitchen table. For whatever reason, the beneficiaries of his estate were “blacked out,” in the Last Will and Testament. 

“The (black) markings,” claimed the presiding Judge over Thomas’s case, “effectively obliterate the names of the executors and beneficiaries, on its face stripping the Will of its essential elements.” The judge concluded that Thomas had intended to revoke his Will and therefore, rendered Thomas’ death as intestate (dying without a Last Will). 

It’s unclear as to what will happen to Thomas’ estate or if the duo intend to appeal this decision. Take this lesson to heart: make certain that your Last Will is clear and concise as possible. FormalWill can help you by generating your printed Last Will and Testament. Click here to find out how.