When you make a Will for the first time, it is more than likely that you will need to change it in the future, due to changes in your personal circumstances, and/or changes in the law. It is important to review your Will at least every two – three years, even if you do not make any amendments, to ensure that it is still relevant.
When should I update my Will?
There are certain significant life events which would trigger a Will review, such as marriage, divorce, cohabitation, the birth of children or grandchildren, or becoming a house owner to name but a few. It is important to remember that marriage revokes an existing Will, and if your get divorced, you are likely to want to make significant changes to your Will. If any of the beneficiaries named in your Will die before you, you may wish to revisit the terms of your Will and add new beneficiaries.
How to update your existing Will
Once you have made a Will and it has been correctly signed and witnessed, you cannot make any changes to it. However, if you wish to make minor amendments, you can make a Codicil which would be signed and witnessed in the same way as the original will. An example of the use of a Codicil could be to add or replace an Executor, or increase the amount of a legacy.
Should I make a Codicil or a new Will?
If the changes are numerous or substantial, it is advisable to make a completely new Will, particularly if you are making changes to how the residue of your estate is distributed. If it is only a small amendment, you can make a Codicil.
Every time you make a new Will, it should contain a statement that it revokes (officially cancels) any previous Will or Codicils which you have made in the past, and that it is your last Will and Testament. It is possible to revoke a Will by tearing it up or burning it, although there are some circumstances where it may be advisable to keep the revoked Will with your new Will, in the event that the new Will is challenged after your death.
Is my current Will valid?
For a Will to be valid, it should in in writing, and signed and dated by the person making it. The signing of the Will needs to be witnessed by two independent witnesses who will also need to sign the Will, and stipulate their full name, address and occupation. Any amendments made at the time of signing the Will should be initialled by all parties.
Sometimes, the validity of a Will can be challenged after your death, on the grounds of lack of capacity to make a will (“testamentary capacity”). This is common where the person making the Will had a diagnosis of dementia, and there were grounds to suspect that they did not understand what they were doing when the Will was made. In this scenario, where practicable, independent and contemporaneous medical evidence should be obtained regarding testamentary capacity in order to rebut any challenges as to the validity of the Will post death.
Other circumstances in which the validity of a Will can be challenged are where there are grounds to suspect undue influence, or coercion, although these grounds are very difficult to prove. It is important to ensure that, where possible, you provide instructions for your Will to your Solicitor alone and in the absence of any potential beneficiaries, to minimise the risk of any later suggestion of undue influence.
For more information on Wills, please visit our pages on wills here.
Or speak to one of our specialist legal team on 0800 614 722.