Wills are written in a style which many would describe as ‘legalese’ but, as any lawyer will tell you, absolute precision is the objective. In one case which illustrates the point, a clerical error which resulted in three crucial words being omitted from a man’s will required a High Court hearing to remedy.
The missing words were ‘to my wife’. The omission meant that the relevant part of the will did not identify a beneficiary and the man’s widow was left at risk of losing her home. Had the Court not intervened, the error would have meant that the man died partially intestate, with part of his estate passing to his next of kin, including his son by an earlier marriage and his grandchildren.
The Court found that the error had probably come about because a typist, who had prepared the will on the direction of the draftsperson, had misheard what had been dictated to her. The firm accepted that a mistake had been made and that the will should have been checked more thoroughly before it was executed.
Coming to the widow’s aid, the Court found that it was obvious from the context in which the will was made that the man had intended to leave his share of his home to his wife of almost 40 years. There was an attendance note to that effect in the man’s file at the firm which drafted the will.
The will made no logical sense without the missing words and the Court effectively rewrote the document so as to incorporate them. The firm for which the solicitor who drafted the will worked had accepted responsibility for the error and had agreed to pay the widow’s legal costs.