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Handwritten Alterations to a Formal Will

Amending or altering a formal, attested will can be a difficult task. Such amendments may not be accepted by the Court, despite what may be the clear intentions of the testator.

The recent Ontario decision of CIBC Trust Corp. v. Horn is illustrative of the principles involved. There, the testator executed a formal, typed will. After execution, the testator made substantial handwritten changes to a number of bequests. The changes were not dated or signed. In addition, she added three unnumbered paragraphs to the will.

The court noted that any alteration to a will must be made in accordance with the formal requirements of the Succession Law Reform Act, unless the alteration renders part of the will completely obliterated. Alterations to a formal will must be signed and attested and signed by two witnesses. 

Alternatively, it is possible to make a holograph codicil to a formal will. However, this too requires compliance with the requirements of the Succession Law Reform Act. For a holograph will or codicil, it must be signed “at, after, following, under or beside or opposite the end of the will”. In this case, the handwritten changes were not signed at all.

In conclusion, the court found that none of the additions or deletions could be given effect, and the Estate Trustee was directed to administer the estate in accordance with the typewritten will, and without considering any of the handwritten changes or additions.

Practitioners may want to advise clients of the requirements for amending or altering provisions in a will. Otherwise, a testator’s intentions may not be truly reflected in the will document that he or she leaves.

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle