A Will is one of the most important legal documents an individual will ever create in his or her lifetime. Through the will, testators can dispose of their property as they wish, distribute it any way among the lawful heirs, and exclude anyone from the will without providing reason or explanation.
This document must reflect testator’s own will. If it was drafted against the testator’s will or in circumstances where the testator was fully or partially incapacitated, the will could be rendered void (invalid). While drafting a will, all formal legal requirements must be strictly observed. Violation of such requirements may subsequently lead to rendering it invalid.
The will shall be drafted with a clear intent of the testator to create this nontrivial legal instrument. The intent is determined post mortem by close examination of the words and expressions contained therein as well as by interpreting them while considering the circumstances when such instrument was created.
Often, following the death of a person, his or her relatives file an application for inheritance with the Department of Registration of Wills and Inheritance only to be struck by the notion that the deceased had left a will where his or her legal heirs are not mentioned even once. If the contents of the will and the circumstances of its creation raise questions and concerns, the legal heirs may contest its validity in court.
In one particular inheritance case a deceased woman left her property to a man she had met shortly before her passing. During the proceedings, the court took into account the short period of acquaintance, difficult mental state of the testator who was under a deep stress at the time, and the fact the beneficiary had actively participated in the creation of the will. The attorneys representing the legal heirs who contested the will’s validity had pointed the court’s attention to the entire body of concerning factors and attached supporting documents including an expert opinion (of a psychiatrist) which led to the court’s decision to render the will invalid.
Testator’s physical and moral state, age, medical history, extent of physical and psychological dependency on other persons, especially if the will names them as beneficiaries, way of life etc. are all material factors that shall be considered in the interpreting of the will’s contents and may affect the future of the inheritance.
By attorneys ItzhakEitan (Fernaldes) and Arthur Blaer
Mekonnen, Palomo, Fernaldes, Blaer and Co. Law Firm