Changing your will – what you need to know

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You have at long last got round to preparing your last Will and Testament, and that’s ‘job done’ – or is it? If you write your will earlier in your life, it is highly likely that you will need to update it from time to time, as things change in your life and around you.

The important thing in the end, is that your will does what you intend and that it works in a way that is not difficult to execute, nor likely to lead to confusion or complaint.

The sort of events and issues that are likely to cause a will to become outdated include divorce or the break-up of a civil partnership, when if you find a new partner, it may not now be your intention to leave everything to your previous! Marriage automatically revokes an earlier will, unless that will states that it is being made in contemplation of that marriage.

Changes in family circumstances can significantly disrupt your intentions in a will, for example the death of a named beneficiary. If your assets and estate grow beyond what you anticipated in your will, you may wish to alter or add to your bequests. The arrival of numbers of grandchildren later in your life, unless provided for to your satisfaction in the general terms of your will, may prompt you to re-visit, if you want to ensure that individual needs and circumstances are addressed.

You can make minor alterations to your will without the necessity of drafting a new will by using a document called a Codicil. In the case of the grandfather where the number of grandchildren has rapidly increased from two to a full football team of eleven, it would be simpler to go for a new will, rather than a growing collection of Codicil attachments. A Codicil details any changes, while also confirming the rest of the previous will document, from the date that the Codicil is added, and if a small number of changes are required it is a simpler alternative to re-writing the entire will.

By using a Codicil, any of the details in a will can be changed. Gifts can be revoked and new gifts can be added, or you can change the Executor. A Codicil always identifies the will it amends by referring to the date on which the original will was written, and must be signed in the same manner as the original will with the same number of witnesses – two in England and Wales, typically one in Scotland. A Codicil should be kept with but not attached to the original will it changes, as this ensures the Codicil is not overlooked.

It is a good idea to review and, if necessary, update your will every couple of years to ensure it is still relevant. As long as you are mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time.

To be safe it is always best to ask your estate planning attorney to prepare a Codicil or a new will for you so that it will be legally valid and binding on all of your beneficiaries.