Handwritten Wills – A False Economy

25 June 2015

Author: Neil Bleakley
Practice Area: Private Client


In an interesting recent case decided in Edinburgh Scotland, it has been held that a signed entry in a notebook diary is a valid Will – but only after a two and a half year process.

The relevant portion of the diary entry read as follows:-

“Please remember.  If [name of beneficiary] is still alive, I want her to have my wealthy remains, the house, pension, savings and everything else…” [sic].

The writer had then reiterated this to be her wish before signing the entry.

The Court on appeal considered it to be relatively unimportant that it was an informal document and more important to consider the language used before deciding whether that language properly bequeathed the writer’s estate or a part of that estate.  According to the Court, the wishes of the writer were expressed clearly and unequivocally set out the writer’s testamentary intentions. 

The writer of the diary entry was divorced and did not have any children.  She did however have a number of siblings, one of whom was the beneficiary stated above of the writer’s “wealthy remains… house, pension, savings and everything else.”

The writer of the diary entry died in 2012 and it is only now that an Appeal Court is upholding the diary entry as a valid Will.  How much better would this have been had the writer of the diary consulted a solicitor and pursuant thereto made a very straightforward Will leaving everything to her favoured sibling?  Such a Will could have been made by a solicitor inexpensively and without fuss.  How ironic then that elsewhere in the diary, the writer had expressed concern about “greedy lawyers” getting involved!

Carson McDowell's Private Client Team  is skilled to advise in relation to Wills and related matters.  If interested in making a Will, whether straightforward or otherwise, please contact Neil Bleakley or Fiona Wallace.