Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Article: Uncertainty About the Condonation of Formally Non-Compliant Wills, and the Rectification of Cross-Signed Mirror Wills: Is an Act-Based Model the Solution?
James Faber recently published an article entitled, Uncertainty About the Condonation of Formally Non-Compliant Wills, and the Rectification of Cross-Signed Mirror Wills: Is an Act-Based Model the Solution?, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2022). Provided below is the abstract to the Article:
A recent contribution proposed a processual act-based approach to conceptualising wills in South African law. This approach regards a will as the product of a will-making process in which various parties perform specific acts with specific associated forms of intention in order to establish a will. The act-based model also paves the way for the introduction of an intent doctrine in South African law. This article tests the functioning of the proposed act-based model by applying it to two scenarios: the condonation of formally non-compliant wills in terms of section 2(3) of the Wills Act and the rectification of cross-signed mirror wills in terms of the common law. Both scenarios continue to be plagued by uncertainty as a direct consequence of the lack of a proper definition, explanation and contextualisation of testator's intention in South African law. Regarding condonation, it is found that, because the courts are often left guessing or speculating as to testator's intention, they inevitably overemphasise other aspects such as the form of the document to establish intention for the purposes of condonation in terms of section 2(3). An act-based model could ensure that the decision to condone or not to condone relies solely on whether the document embodies the act of testation. If the act of testation is found to be present (no matter in which shape or form, or by whom it was drafted), the document embodying such an act should be condoned. In terms of rectification, in turn, the act-based model highlights the important distinction between content and formality – the act of testation as opposed to compliance with the statutory formality requirements through the execution of a will. It appears that rectification is appropriate only where an error has caused a discrepancy between the testator's true intention and the intention as expressed in the act of testation contained in the will. Rectification seems less appropriate when dealing with cross-signed wills, which are the result of a flawed execution process. Instead, condonation is much better suited for correcting the formal non-compliance of cross-signed wills.