It’s hard to believe that something as common as a staple remover could cost your estate hundreds, or even thousands of dollars! But in fact, the simple act of removing the staple from an original Will can call the entire validity of the Will into question.
When deciding whether to grant Probate of a Will in an estate, the Court must be satisfied that the document being presented represents the final wishes of the deceased person and that it is their whole, unchanged Will.
Where a staple has been removed from the original Will, it is difficult for the Court to establish that the Will has not been tampered with, and specifically, that a page has not been replaced or removed.
Where a staple has been removed, the Court will require an Affidavit by the person who unstapled the Will, explaining when and how it came to be unstapled and the reasons for ‘altering’ the Will.
If the removal of the staple cannot be explained, then the executor may be required to conduct searches for other Wills which may have been prepared by the deceased, and explain, by Affidavit, how the Will was located in its unstapled condition.
To remove any doubt, here are some golden rules to abide by if you have an original Will in your possession:-
- Do not remove staples.
- Do not attach anything to the Will by paperclip, glider, bulldog or any other fastening device.
- Do not change or alter the physical appearance of the Will in any way.
What if it’s too late?
If the staple has already been inadvertently removed, or a paperclip or other fastening device attached to the Will the best thing you can do is to leave the Will in its present state (with the staple removed, or paperclip attached) and call a lawyer. Do not attempt to fix or undo the alteration as any ‘repair’ will also need to be explained to the Court.
A specialist Wills and Estates Lawyer has the knowledge and experience to help you meet the Courts requirements to explain the alterations to the Will and ensure a Grant of Probate is received in the Estate.