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The Value of Keeping Wills safe

A woman died unexpectedly in a car accident.  A month before the accident she had handwritten a new Will.  She told her girlfriends that, having separated from her husband she was keen to make sure he did not inherit anything from her.  She made it known that all her important documents were in a filing cabinet or a camphor wood chest at her home. On the day of her accident, her home was broken into and the filing cabinet was forced open and ransacked.  The original Will was not found.  Where an original Will is not found it is no longer a valid Will since the law presumes that the Will-maker intended to destroy it.    In this case, the Judge was prepared to find that the unusual circumstances of the break-in on the day of the accident rebutted this presumption (i.e. he did not assume that the Will had been destroyed).  A girlfriend had a copy of the Will and this copy was held to be a valid informal Will.  However, the woman’s family had to go to the Supreme Court to obtain court orders to this effect.  A lot of expense and delay could have been avoided if the Will had not been kept at home.  Solicitors as part of their service for drafting Wills usually offer safe custody of Wills free of charge -a service well worth considering (see Re Webster [2019] VSC 28).

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