Do inaccuracies in a Will invalidate it and, if so,does the previous Will then go into effect?

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Do inaccuracies in a Will invalidate it and, if so,does the previous Will then go into effect?

My grandmother had been living with a boyfriend that she claimed to be her husband for about 7 years. They never obtained a marriage license or had a ceremony. She recently passed, and her Will identifies this person as her lawful spouse. The Will also gives everything to her “beloved husband …”. My concern is that the Will becomes invalid because she, being of sound mind, was listing a man as her husband when he in fact was not. I worry that her wish to care for him after her death will be cause to now challenge her Will, by family members not included in it.

Asked on July 20, 2011 Idaho

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  I would speak with an attorney in your area on the matter.  It is my understanding that Idaho recognizes common law marriages entered in to prior to 1/1/96.  It does not seem that your Grandmother's relationship will fall within that time frame.  Did she and her boyfriend hold themselves out as married in a state that does recognize common law marriage?  Then theirmarriage may well be valid. But I can tell that there will be a fight there as well.  You should know that just because you have been left out of a Will does not mean that you have grounds to contest the Will.  It is the opposite in fact.  Grounds to contest are undue influence, mental incompetence, etc.  Good luck. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no definitive answer to your question. A will is generally interpreted in such fashion as to give affect to the testator's (the person making the will) wishes. If it is clear that she intended some portion of her estate to go to this person, then the inaccurate identification of him *may* not preclude him from inheriting, if it can be shown that the identification of him as her husband was a harmless, if eccentric, error. On the other hand, if he is not identified by name, but only as "husband," there could be trouble; or if there is evidence suggesting she only wanted him to inherit if they got married; or if the misidentification can be used to cast doubt on her mental state (e.g. that she was somewhat delusional, or was prey to his improper influence). In short, the answer will depend upon whether the will is challenged; how exactly it is written; and if challenged, what evidence is there for yoru grandmother's mental state and her exact wishes.


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