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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

Succession: Wills: Construction of Wills: Principles of construction

If there is any doubt about the construction of a Will you will need to look at the principles of construction.

The first principle of construction is to give effect to the testator’s intention (IHTM12001) as expressed in the words of the Will - rather than the intention in their mind at the time they made the Will. The Will as a whole must be considered and not just the part about which there may be doubt. If the intention is not clear the court will apply the rules of construction to determine the meaning of the Will.

The court of probate is concerned with the validity of the Will, which is dealt with by the Family Division of the High Court, while the ‘court of construction’ is concerned with the meaning and effect of a valid Will, which is dealt with in the Chancery Division.

The court will try to adopt a construction which gives a sensible meaning to the provisions of the Will and will not lead to an intestacy (IHTM12101).