Fans of the HBO Series Game of Thrones and the books they are based on know the scene well. King Robert, back from a hunting accident, lies in his bed about to die. His friend, the Hand of the King Ned Stark, is with him. Robert asks Ned to write down the terms of his Will, which Ned does faithfully except for one key phrase. Where Robert says “My son Joffrey,” Ned writes, “My Heirs.” It’s a pivotal moment in the series as Robert does not know that Joffrey is not his son, a fact that Ned is aware of.
Fans of the series know what happens next. Ned tries to present this Will and is arrested, not for presenting a false Will, but for not agreeing that Joffrey is now the king. Some people have wondered whether Robert’s Will was valid. The answer is not clear in terms of the fictional world, but in the United States it would not be. Some states do allow these types of written dying declarations to serve as Wills, but not all. However, no state would allow it if it became known that Ned Stark changed a significant word of Robert’s. Of course, in the series, no one else was in the room to know that Ned changed the language, but that’s a different matter.
The moral of the story is to hire an estate planning attorney, so you don’t have to worry about the King Ned’s of the world.