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Queensland Supreme Court decide beneficiary in imprecise will

Make sure your will is up-to-date and correct to ensure your estate is divided in regards to your wishes.

A recent case at the Queensland Supreme Court highlights the importance of estate planning and regularly updating your will.

The case concerned an imprecise will. The deceased had had two wills made up within nine days of each other in August 1998. He died in 2003, but by 2014 the administration of the estate had not been completed. 

The first will, dated August 11, stipulated that the deceased's estate should be split between three residual beneficiaries, the respondent's three children. The second will made on August 20 added that his house, or the proceeds of the sale, be given to his late wife's niece. The August 20 will was admitted to probate on September 15 2010.

However, the woman (the applicant) named in the latter will was not the late wife's niece, but the daughter. She did not hear she had been named a beneficiary until November 21 2011. By then the house had been sold. 

The court found that the applicant was the beneficiary named in the will, and "any doubt about who is the intended beneficiary by reason of the inconsistency between the expression of relationship and the name in ​[clause] 3(a) of the testator's last will and testament is resolved in favour of the name".

Updating your will 

It is strongly recommended that wills are reviewed every three to five years. However if there is a change in your personal circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, new children or grandchildren or the executor or beneficiary dies, then it is important to make sure the changes are reflected in your will. 

It is also important that beneficiaries and changes to the will are witnessed and looked over by a solicitor to ensure that no errors have been made.