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Although a worryingly high proportion of the population never make a will, a fairly large number of those who do make more than one. It is sensible to make a new will or add codicils to an existing will if your circumstances change significantly. However, some people do take the process to extremes, as is evidenced by a case involving the estate of a woman who made 13 different wills between 2004 and 2014.
Her final will was admitted to probate in 2016 and its validity was challenged by her two daughters, who each stood to inherit £100,000 more under a will she had made in 2000 than they would under her final will.
The challenge was made on the basis that the deceased woman and her late husband had created ‘mutual wills’ in 2000. Mutual wills create a binding agreement between two or more people which prevents the surviving party/parties from disposing of the estate in a different way.
As the promise made is binding, a subsequent will cannot revoke it. In the case in point, the judge found that the wills were mutual wills and all of the subsequent wills were therefore void.
The practical issue for a survivor who has entered into a mutual will and wishes to change the way their assets are distributed is that they will need to address this whilst alive, as the mutual will determines the distribution of the estate assets on the death of the surviving party to the agreement.