How do I change my Will?

“Life happens” all the time. As we go through our lives, we experience many changes and significant events. Some of these are short, sharp shocks whilst others are life-changing. We often advise people to review their Will regularly and when we do that are often asked by them “but how do I change my Will?”

Whilst making a Will might seem like a “one-off” exercise, when your circumstances change, be prepared to reflect those changes in your Will. You can experience significant change over the course of your life. You might get married – or divorced – then re-married. Also, you might have children or grandchildren. You might make or lose a fortune. Whatever happens, if your circumstances change, you should always consider if that would cause you to change your instructions in your Will. Even if you don’t sustain “life-changing” events, most people consider it to be sensible to review their Will every 5 years or so. Can you remember the last time you reviewed your Will?

What to I need to do to change my Will?

When you decide to review your Will, you need to be careful not to make changes that cause confusion. It’s not usually enough just to add a note or two. You need to remember that your Will is a legal document. You should deal properly with any changes.

It’s likely your Will was drawn up by a solicitor, so it makes sense to discuss any changes with a solicitor. Your original Will will have been witnessed and the document containing any changes should also be witnessed. It is important to make sure that the changes you make don’t conflict your original Will or cause ambiguity that costs time and money to resolve.

Here’s an example of this. In your original Will, you decide to leave your very expensive electric guitar to your eldest daughter. Some time later, you add a note to say that you want to leave your expensive electric guitar to your eldest granddaughter. The question is, who gets the guitar? This type of confusion can cause endless family arguments!

Changing your Will the “right” way

As you will now appreciate, it’s very important to change your Will the “right way”.

There are two ways you can do this. The first way, whilst seemingly straight forward, is to create a Codicil. This is a document that is normally used for minor changes to your Will. For instance, if you wanted to change an executor, you could do that using a Codicil. In this instance, it would contain one clause to revoke the appointment of the previous executor and another clause appointing the new executor in their place. In the case of the expensive electric guitar we’ve mentioned above, the Codicil will cancel the bequest to your eldest daughter and replace it with a bequest to your eldest granddaughter.

The Codicil must be signed and witnessed, just like your original Will. Whilst you can add as may Codicils as you like, we would recommend against this. If there is one thing that can cause confusion, it’s having multiple Codicils as that increases the risk of confusion.

If you wish to carry out a major review of your Will, it is always best to create a brand new Will. This will clearly set out your wishes at that point in time, thus avoiding any potential confusion. In addition, this new Will will also cancel your original Will so that there is no confusion whether its terms also apply. This is perhaps a “cleaner” solution to changing your Will.

What should I do next?

So, when you ask the question, “How can I change my Will?” the answer is usually “very easily”, provided, of course, you do it in the correct way.

If you have made a Will you would like to change or if you would like to make a Will, please get in touch with us.