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Rondel v. Robinson Estate – Revoking Wills

In a previous blog, I discussed the topic of revoking Wills. The blog discuses how a Will revokes all prior Wills. Typically, Wills contain standard language, expressly revoking all “prior Wills and Codicils.”  This can sometimes create issues if the implications of the revocation have not been thoroughly considered by the testator, as outlined below.

In Rondel v. Robinson Estate (2011 Ont. C.A.), the testator executed a Will in Spain which addressed her European property.  She subsequently made a Will which purported to deal with her entire estate and specifically revoked all prior Wills (she then made a further Will which contained an amendment).

Following the testator’s death, an issue arose as to whether the testator intended to revoke the Spanish Will, which contained different beneficiaries from the subsequent Wills.

There was compelling evidence which suggested that the testator never intended to revoke the Spanish Will, including: evidence from the solicitor who prepared the subsequent Will confirming that he did not know about the Spanish Will and that the testator did not instruct him to revoke the Will; evidence from the beneficiary in the Spanish Will and the testator’s friend suggesting that the testator never intended to revoke the Spanish Will.

An application was brought before the court for a determination as to the validity of the Spanish Will.

The court ruled that the Spanish Will was in fact revoked by the subsequent Will and the court refused to consider the extrinsic evidence, discussed above, which suggested that the testator never intended to revoke the Spanish Will.  In other words, the court only considered the language of the Will itself which clearly stated that it revoked all prior Wills, which, of course, included the Spanish Will.

The case was appealed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario. In affirming the lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the evidence was inadmissible because it attempted to establish a contrary intention to that determined by giving the words of the Will their ordinary and natural meaning.”

While the decision may seem unfair to the would-be Spanish beneficiaries and perhaps even to the testator who may not have intended to revoke the Spanish Will, the decision does avoid debate regarding a testator’s intentions.

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