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In recent weeks Priscilla Presley launched a high-profile legal challenge disputing the validity of her late daughter’s will (reported by BBC). Lisa Marie Presley died on the 12th of January 2023 leaving behind a music career of her own and assets including the iconic Memphis mansion, Graceland.
In her original will, Lisa Marie appointed Priscilla Presley and her former business manager as trustees of her estate. However, in 2016 she amended her will so to appoint her children Riley and Benjamin Keough as estate trustees. Benjamin Keough died in 2020 at the age of 27.
Following the death of her daughter, Priscilla challenged this amendment arguing the document misspelled Priscilla’s name and had a signature that appeared unusual. If she is successful in her claim the 2016 amendment made by Lisa Marie will be declared invalid leaving Priscilla as trustee for her daughter’s estate under the original will.
In England and Wales it is possible to amend a will with a document known as a codicil. Codicils allow an individual to make a small number of amendments to a will via a separate document. These amendments commonly include:
A Codicil is a testamentary document and so the same rules apply to its creation as a will. In order to produce a codicil, the document must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the codicil in the testator’s presence.
Amending your will by simply writing on it is possible but is strongly discouraged for anything further than correcting typos. Additions made via hand must be appropriately signed and witnessed and deletions must clearly strike out the provisions of the will you intend to remove. There is a greater risk of written amendments being unclear or invalid which is why it is not advisable.
For minor changes or additions to a will, a codicil is often an appropriate way to make amendments. It is often cheaper to draft a Codicil in comparison to producing an entirely new will.
An important point to consider is that a codicil is read alongside you existing will which presents a number of risks. If the Codicil is not attached to the will or is lost, its contents could be unknown to the executors leaving them unable to comply with your updated wishes. If a Codicil is poorly drafted, inconsistencies with the original will may arise could cause it to become invalid. Issues such as these can leave a will open to disputes similar to that of Lisa Marie Presley’s will.
If the intention is to make larger and more complex changes to a will, the safest approach would be draft a new will considering these updated wishes.
Everyone writing a Will, wants the peace of mind to know that it will not be challenged after you have gone.
We understand estate planning can be complex and confusing, but we are more than happy to guide you through the process and provide you with our legal advice at each step of the way.
Conversely, if you have any concerns about changes made to a loved-ones Will during their lifetime, our expert Solicitors are on hand to review you concerns and advise you accordingly.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice, and should not be relied upon as advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. All content was correct at the time of publishing. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.