Handwritten changes to printed wills

10 December 2020


If you are a regular will practitioner, you will often be called to make wills at a person’s home or in hospital. You will generally have first taken instructions and prepared your will with a view to returning to have the will signed.

It is not unusual in these cases, even after taking lengthy instructions for clients to wish to make further changes. A bequest could go from €10,000 to €20,000, a charity could be replaced with another. You might be pressed for time, there may be no further opportunity to make this will and you will be left with no option to alter or amend your will. You have some options:-

  1. Be prepared and bring your will on your laptop/Surface/ iPad etc with a mobile printer so you can print out a fresh will. Mobile printers are becoming more portable, but even the slimmest tend to be cumbersome and this may or may not be an option. Power options may be limited. Technology being technology, your document may not print, due to gremlins.
  2. Handwrite out the will again. Definitely an option and somewhat time-consuming but a good option.
  3. If the changes are relatively minor, then, it is possible to make handwritten changes to the will.

So if you are going for option 3, what are the considerations?

  1. The handwritten changes must be made prior to the execution of the will.
  2. The hand written changes must be noted by the signature of the testator and attestation by signature of the witnesses if they are significant. Initialling is permitted for minor alterations as long as the witnesses also attest the changes either by signature or initial (Order 79 r. 11).
  3. You will need to deal with the handwritten changes in your attestation clause. So for example

SIGNED by the Testator in our presence and signed by us in the presence of him and of each other the date “3 November” on the first line being deleted and “10 December” inserted in its place and the sum of “EUR10,000” in the 10th line being changed to “EUR20,000” and the words “my children” being deleted on line 10 and the words “my cousins” being interlined between lines 9 and 10 such alterations being made prior the execution of the said will by the testator

Paper rarely refuses ink

These matters are dealt with in section 86 of the Succession Act 1965 which is in turn substantially the same as s. 21 of the Wills Act 1837. This section prohibits changes after the execution of a will unless the changes are in turn executed in the same manner as a will.

In addition to these elements you will also need to prepare an affidavit of attesting witness. There is a useful precedent in Speirin, Wills, Irish Precedents and Drafting (2nd Ed, Bloomsbury) in Appendix 3.

In summary. If time is limited and changes need to made then the instructions of a client take paramount. Hand amendments are never recommended but they are not fatal and hopefully these tips will make you confident in making small changes that serve your clients.