A recent case illustrates the dangers of making even small changes to your will without taking professional advice.

A woman and her second husband had made mirror wills leaving their house to their own children and dividing the rest of their estate between their children and stepchildren equally.

When the wife inherited a sum of money from her family, she added a codicil to her will saying that if she predeceased her second husband, that money ‘should be divided equally between my grandchildren’.

Her husband died first and her will was not amended. When she died, the court had to decide the meaning of the codicil. Strictly, because the woman did not predecease her husband, the inherited money would pass to her children and stepchildren. However, the codicil was clearly intended to protect that money for her grandchildren.

The judge took a common-sense approach: it would be odd, indeed, if the woman had wanted to benefit her grandchildren only if she predeceased her husband. After hearing evidence from the family that her intention was for her grandchildren to inherit the money, that was the ruling of the court.