Things change. Life changes. Is your Will up to date?

New caselaw solidifies the importance of updating your Will.

By Jenna Lalani, Estate Planning and Family Lawyer, Vancouver

Things change. The need to update your Last Will and Testament comes more often than people believe. For most, many years go by without updating their Will or they ultimately never revise it based on their true and current intentions. Then what?

The latest Supreme Court of BC case, Henderson v Myler, 2021, BCSC 164, did not allow a woman’s handwritten revisions and notes as her latest Last Will and Testament. The BC Supreme Court instead upheld her Will made in 2013 as her final wishes. The 99-year-old Vancouver woman, Eleena Violette Murray, had originally named her nieces and nephews and gifted specific amounts to total approximately $440,000 with the remainder of the total estate to go to the BC SPCA. In 2013, when her Will was executed, her home was valued at just under half of what the value of the home was at her death. Given the increase in value of the home was now double since the Will was made, Murray’s original intentions of gifting approximately $40,000 or $60,000 to her nieces and nephews were argued not to be her true intentions at her death, largely because the BC SPCA would now be entitled to $1.4 million under her 2013 Will. Within Murray’s belongings, a handwritten note was found ultimately revising her 2013 Will. The note increased the specific gift amounts that her family were to receive and ultimately set a gift amount of $100,000 to the BC SPCA.

While the court had acknowledged that the revisions were “rational” and “consistent”, there were several reasons why the court did not allow the note to be reflected as Murray’s Last Will and Testament. For instance, the key factors are as follows:

  • The note was never signed.
  • The note was never witnessed.
  • The note was written on yellow notepad paper.
  • The note is not titled as her Last Will and Testament nor does it formally revoke her 2013 Will.
  • The note was never discussed with family, nor kept with her 2013 Will.
  • The note does not only provide Murray’s handwriting but other ink and handwriting suggesting a process rather than a final instrument.

(The note below unsigned and in handwriting showing the different gift amounts. Notice that SPCA is listed to receive $100,000 under this note, but instead received over $1.4 million in the 2013 Will.)

What you may intend or wish at one point in your life can change. It is important to not only update your Will but also execute it in a manner accepted by law. Notes are not adequate testamentary documents. It must be properly executed in a legal format and signed in accordance with the Will, Estates and Succession Act for the Will to be a valid Last Will and Testament.

At Crossroads Law, we help people through divorces, new relationships and any change in a family’s dynamic which gives rise to the need to update your Will. However, circumstances like an increase in house/asset value, paying off a debt, receiving an inheritance, starting a business, or investment return also gives rise to the need to update your Will.

It is important to think to yourself: Have I adequately planned for my estate given my current circumstances? Have I properly executed my Will so there is no confusion for my estate? Contact us today at Crossroads Law for a complimentary 20-minute consultation where we can review your Will and discuss whether or not an update is needed.

The information contained in this blog is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only.