Construction of Wills
When any part of a will is ambiguous or meaningless, an individual can seek court intervention through a process known as construction. Construction of wills focuses on interpreting the document in a manner that aligns with the testator’s genuine intentions. The legal framework for construction has evolved through case law and statute, notably section 21 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982.
Principles of Construction
The court, when construing a will, places itself in the testator’s shoes and will often look to interpret the words used in the light of all relevant facts and circumstances. The Supreme Court decision in Marley v Rawlings  UKSC 2 provides valuable insights into the principles of construction. The court affirmed that a will should be interpreted like a contract, emphasising the natural and ordinary meaning of words, the document’s overall purpose, other provisions within it, facts known or assumed by the parties at the time of execution, and common sense. Notably, subjective evidence of any party’s intentions are disregarded.
Ambiguity and Evidence of Intentions
In instances where a will contains ambiguous or meaningless parts, the court has the discretion to consider evidence of the testator’s actual intentions. This may involve references to communications with the person who prepared the will, notes made by the testator, or earlier drafts of the will.
Rectification of Wills
While Marley v Rawlings dealt with construction, it also touched upon rectification, covered by section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982. Rectification allows for the correction of wills in cases of clerical errors or a failure to understand the testator’s instructions. This remedy is often sought when will writers make mistakes, as illustrated in Marley , where a solicitor inadvertently swapped the wills of a married couple when they came to sign them.
Understanding the processes of construction and rectification is essential for addressing ambiguities or errors in wills. If you have concerns over a will or are facing a will dispute contact us to speak to one of our lawyers.