Over time, you may need to make changes to your Will. You have the option of adding a codicil or making a new Will.
It is recommended that you review your Will at least once every five years as well as in the light of any major life events, such as buying a home, the birth of a child or a divorce. It is essential to make a new Will if you marry, as marriage automatically invalidates a Will. If your Will only needs a minor alteration however, it may be possible to simply add a codicil.
A codicil is a separate document that you will sign in front of witnesses in the same way as a Will, then store with your Will. It is important that you do not physically attach it to your Will as this could invalidate your Will. Similarly, you should never write on your Will after it has been executed.
A codicil is best used only for minor amendments, such as removing or adding an executor .
A new Will is advisable if you wish to make more substantial amendments, such as changing the people mentioned in your Will or leaving gifts to new beneficiaries. Making a new Will gives you the chance to fully consider all the provisions you have made and decide whether you want to change any of them. Your new Will should state that it revokes all earlier Wills.
Will or codicil?
A codicil is quick and simple to put into place. However, there is a small risk that it could be lost, in which case it would not take effect when the Will is proved. If you make more than one codicil, then this could complicate matters for your executors when the time comes. There is also a risk that no-one will know how many codicils you have made. When there is uncertainty around someone’s estate, it can increase the risk of a dispute arising among family members after a death.
In addition, if a codicil is created the original will remains unchanged so if you remove or add people/gifts by codicil those affected will be aware that they were/were not in the original Will and this can cause unnecessary ill feelings and tensions.
Reviewing your Will
Reviewing your Will gives you the opportunity to decide whether you are still happy with the appointments you have made and whether the people named are still willing and able to act. This could include executors, guardians and trustees. You can also consider whether you wish to make any changes to the gifts you have left to beneficiaries if, for example, their circumstances have changed.
If your own financial situation has altered, you may also want to take this into account as it could substantially change the amount of any residuary gifts, ie. a share of the remaining estate, compared to any specific gifts. For example, if you come into money, then your residuary estate will be much larger and you may also want to increase the amount you leave to those receiving gifts of set amounts of money.
If you have divorced, then your former spouse will not receive anything under the terms of your Will, and there is a risk that if you have not named other beneficiaries then you will be intestate, or without named heirs.
You may also want to review your Will in the light of any changes in legislation, for example, Inheritance Tax provisions.
A Wills expert will be able to advise you on the most cost-effective way of leaving your estate to your loved ones.
This information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking full legal advice on specific facts and circumstances.