When you agree to be the executor of someone’s estate, you hope it won’t be too difficult. When they pass away, however, you may discover all sorts of issues that make it far more complex than you thought. One of the biggest problems is the existence of multiple wills.
Ideally, people do one of two things when updating their will — add codicils to update the current one or create an entirely new one. A revision should include verbiage revoking the old one. All copies of the old will should typically be destroyed.
Unfortunately, not everyone does this. Maybe they forgot to destroy a copy of the old one tucked away in a file. Perhaps they just wrote the new one out on a piece of paper and did not get around to formalizing it.
How do you know which version to follow?
Fortunately, it is not up to you to make this difficult decision. If there are multiple wills, then you should pass them to a probate court to decide.
If it’s obvious which is the newer version, then all a court needs to do is establish its validity. This isn’t always simple. They can look at whether the person was mentally competent when they wrote it and if they did so freely or under duress.
Being the executor does not mean you need to know all the answers or do everything yourself. Often the best way to fulfill your responsibility of upholding the deceased’s wishes is to get legal help to undertake what can often be a complex task.