Here is a common scenario: Your parents went to an attorney years and years ago and executed basic wills, leaving their respective estates to each other, then to their three children. A few years ago your father passed away and the entire estate passed to your mother. Following your father’s death, relations between your mother and your brother were strained. One day your mother stumbles upon her will and wants to make some changes, but rather than executing a new will, your mother hand writes at the bottom of the will, “I want each grandchild to receive $2,000. I want my sister, Jane, to have our mother’s wedding band. I do not want my son, John, to inherit any of my estate.” Your mother passes and you are the executor of the estate. Are your parent’s final instructions valid and enforceable and your brother is disinherited?
Pursuant to 20 Pa.C.S. § 2502(1), the answer is no. The final instructions are not valid and enforceable. Section 2502(1) provides that “The presence of any writing after the signature to a will, whether written before or after its execution, shall no invalidate that which precedes the signature.” As a result, because the main section of the will provides for a distribution to all three children, the language at the bottom of the will, after the signature, that disinherits your brother is not enforceable. The same is likely true for the specific gifts to the grandchildren and of the wedding band.
In order to effectuate these changes, a new will or a codicil (addendum) must be executed. If you or a loved one is interested in making changes to a will, please contact me, Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire. My firm offers free initial consultations during which we can review your estate planning needs and any prior wills to determine how best to secure your intentions. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.