Testator simultaneously signing several copies of the same will

I am having some difficulty finding the answer to this question and so I wondered if any forum members had come across this situation before and could advise me?

My client (who lives overseas and therefore signed his will overseas) has returned his original will to me for safekeeping. It was signed and witnessed correctly. However, he has also sent me two additional original signed wills, so I now have three identical wills all executed correctly and dated on the same date. He dealt with the production of the hard copy will himself by printing off a copy that I had sent him by email, so he has basically printed three separate copies to sign.

When I asked my client about this, he said that he had done this because it occurred to him that copies would be needed for each of him, me (his solicitor) and his son. He hadn’t appreciated that he only needed to sign his will once and that copies of this will could then be circulated as necessary.

What should I do when it comes to the storage of the will(s)? It is impossible to know in what order they were signed, but in theory the one that was signed last is the “last will” (the other two having been revoked in effect). Colleagues have suggested storing all three wills and then only using one of them when the time comes to apply for probate (on the basis that they all have equal standing), but I would be grateful for any other thoughts or advice on this issue.

You could ask the client to print off and sign another one, which should resolve the question as it will revoke whichever of the 3 are the “current” will>

Paul Saunders FCIB TEP

Independent Trust Consultant

Providing support and advice to fellow professionals

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No, they don’t have equal standing. The one your client signed last revoked the other two. So all he has to do is identify which is the one he signed last.

The solution is for your client to print off a fourth copy and sign that.

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As an articled clerk c. 1991, I had an estate where we found 7 identical copies of a homemade, handwritten will after the testatrix had died, with no way of knowing which was the last copy. We made an appointment with our local Probate Office (Liverpool) and took all 7 copies there - they examined them - agreed that it was impossible to tell which was the last one but as they were all identical they suggested we just pick one for lodging and they would not object. We just followed their instructions, having made them aware of all the circumstances. If you know in advance then definitely less hassle to have him redo the will now.

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