Changing a Will

Making necessary modifications later

So you've made your Will and made the appropriate preparations for the future. But will it always be valid? While you are always far better off having made a Will, you still should bear in mind that certain changes in your circumstances may mean that it becomes outdated.

Things which can affect a Will

There are several common life changes which could affect your Will.

Marriage

Any Will created prior to a marriage will be invalidated by the marriage unless special provision is made within the Will itself. If you are making a Will and know that you will be soon be getting married, it is possible to specify that the Will should endure – however, if you did not foresee the marriage when you put together the Will, or if no provisions were included, then you will have to make a new one to provide for your new circumstances. These rules also apply to civil partnerships.

Divorce

Getting divorced does not invalidate the entire Will, but it does cancel any part of it which names your spouse as a beneficiary. As with marriage, it is possible to specify in a Will that you would like your spouse to remain as beneficiary even if you were to divorce. However, this is rarely done as no married couple wants to imagine that they will end up getting divorced, and if it does occur then the relationship may have deteriorated to the point where they would not want their spouse as a beneficiary anyway.

Also note that if you should name your spouse as an executor of your estate and then get divorced, they are no longer legally entitled to act in this role. If you failed to name more than one executor, this means the rules of intestacy will be used to determine who is responsible for administering your estate. This will usually mean your next of kin is granted responsibility over your property and possessions – which may not be what you wanted. This is one of several reasons for ensuring that you name more than one executor in your Will.

As with marriage, these rules are also applicable to the dissolution of a civil partnership.

Changes to your estate

If you lose a lot of money which you had planned to leave to beneficiaries, or you sell or lose possessions or property which were promised to someone in your Will, this can cause problems when your estate is administered. While it will probably not invalidate the Will, it will complicate the process for the people you have elected to be executors, and some of your beneficiaries may end up losing out. This means that it’s very important to update your Will if there are significant changes to what you own.

Tax Changes

If you’ve optimised your Will to minimise Inheritance Tax (IHT), changes in the rate could easily affect your preparations. Furthermore, attempts to reduce IHT may incur other taxes, such as Capital Gains Tax, and if these rates increase then your strategies for avoiding IHT could leave your beneficiaries worse off. It’s always important to keep an eye on the tax rates, or have an accountant advise you on them, so you can ensure that your Will makes the best use of your available assets.

Change of executors

Unforeseen circumstances may lead to your choice of executors becoming unsuitable. For example, executors may pass away before you do, or ill health may lead to them being unfit to administer your estate. On the other hand, it could be something more mundane – they may rethink the decision to act as executors, your relationship with them may change, or you may decide that you would like your estate to be administered by a professional executor.

Change of beneficiaries

This is usually more of a personal decision than anything that threatens to cause problems with your Will, but you may decide that you wish to remove someone as a beneficiary, add someone new, or change how much or what certain people will receive from your estate. The death of a beneficiary will also affect your Will.

Ways to Change a Will

The difficulty of changing your Will depends on the working practices of the solicitor or service you used to write it in the first place. Some solicitors will insist on rewriting the entire Will and charge for this; others may offer a reduced rate  for a codicil.

Codicils

However, if your solicitor insists on charging full price, it may be possible to make changes to your Will without having to draft an entirely new one, with the use of a codicil. This is a document which amends one or more sections in your original Will without replacing it entirely. Because a codicil is separate from, and less complicated than, a Will, you will likely be able to get it for a price lower than that of a full rewrite.

A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same fashion as a Will. It’s important to note that  it is inadvisable for anyone named as a beneficiary in either the Will or the codicil to act as witness to either the will or codicil’s signing because this will invalidate any gift left to them in the will or codicil.  

It is becoming general practice nowadays to write a new Will rather than use a codicil, as this method avoids any confusion and means that beneficiaries will not see the changes made when the Will and Codicil become public documents.

Share your experiences

Please note: The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Law on the Web, its owners, its staff or contributors.

Picking the best Wills solicitors

BusinessmanWriting a will can be a daunting task. Getting help from a solicitor is advisable as the experience of writing a will can be quite overwhelming. Most people have a rough idea of what they want to do with their belongings and the solicitor can organise all of these ideas into a professional document.

Find out more

The Will of the deceased

Requiem for a schemeA Will or a ‘Last Will and Testament’ is a declaration in a legal document that ensures your property and assets are divided among your loved ones according to your personal wishes.

Find out more

Your guide to contesting a Will

The people at work look down on meTo contest a will means that you want to challenge the terms of an individual’s ‘Last Will of Testament’ in court. The will is a useless document until the testator is dead and any friend or family member who wishes to contest your will must have reasonable grounds for challenging it.

Find out more
I found Law on the Web to be very informative when looking for a solicitor to do our family will. It helped me find key information fast and when getting in contact with a solicitor I already had some knowledge on the subject and could focus in on what we needed. Thanks for all your hard work.
David Doulton, Long Ashton, Somerset May 2012

We are looking into ways to develop the website and would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to complete our short survey.
Please click submit when you have finished the survey

Thank you for taking part in our survey.