At first glance, a Will may appear to be clearly drafted and easy to interpret. However, small, seemingly insignificant changes to a Will can lead to dramatically different results for the beneficiaries.
Beverley May Levesque passed away on August 17, 2018 leaving behind a Will originally created on May 21, 2009. Upon her passing, her daughter opened a sealed envelope containing the Will. Portions of the Will had been whited out, but had not been signed by Ms. Levesque and two witnesses as required. The alterations to the Will removed Ms. Levesque’s granddaughter, Karen Nixon, from the Will. The Court was asked to find that the altered Will be found valid.
The Court’s first task was to determine who altered the Will. For the greater part of her life, Ms. Levesque had lived alone with occasional family visits. She had moved in with her daughter just two months before she died. At all times, Ms. Levesque knew where her Will was and had direct access to it. The Court found that Ms. Levesque herself had altered the Will.
Next, the Court considered whether the alterations made to the original Will were illegible. If the original text was illegible, then the Will would be read on the basis of what was legible only. Because the original text could be seen when the document was held to the light, the Court found that the change made by Ms. Levesque had not made the original document illegible.
Faced with two competing versions of the Will – the original version and the whited-out version – the Court had to determine whether Ms. Levesque’s true intention was what she expressed in the original Will or in the altered Will. The Court considered evidence that Ms. Nixon had eloped and not told Ms. Levesque about her marriage before publicly sharing it on Facebook. Upon hearing the news, Ms. Levesque had been upset. The Court found that the alteration to the Will was conceivable due to the fact that Ms. Levesque was upset about Ms. Nixon’s elopement.
Assessing all the evidence, the Court found that the whiteout alterations to the original Will were valid. As a result, Ms. Nixon was removed as a beneficiary of Ms. Levesque’s estate.
As the case above demonstrates, a will maker’s true intentions can be difficult to ascertain and may require a court action to figure out. While it can be a challenging process to manage a legal proceeding over an estate, Hamilton Duncan’s experienced lawyers can help guide you through the process and achieve a successful outcome. If you have any questions concerning what a lawyer can do for you, feel free to get in touch with our team. With over 60 years of experience, we can provide you with immediate assistance and recommend possible solutions to help ease your mind and reduce your stress.