Altering a Will
After certain life changing events it may be necessary to amend your current Will or write a new Will. There are many reasons why people may need to alter their Will.
After getting married, divorced or separated you may wish to change the way in which you choose to divide up your assets. You may have a new addition to the family i.e. child, grand-child, or great grand-child who you would like to name as a beneficiary. Similarly, a change in your financial situation may also result in you updating your Will. For example, you may have recently bought property or land and wish to alter your Will to reflect those changes.
After the birth of a new child it is important to review and amend your Will, if you want them to be included as a beneficiary. A new child will only become a beneficiary if stated in your Will, regardless of whether or not your other children are listed as beneficiaries. It is therefore required that after the birth of a child or grandchild that you amend your Will accordingly if they are to have a gift or share of your assets.
If you have written a Will and then get divorced, any assets which had been left to your former spouse are no longer applied after the divorce has been finalised. Any gifts will be passed to the residuary beneficiaries.
If you pass away and have left everything to your former spouse, and your decree absolute has come through, then it will be as though you have died leaving no Will i.e. died intestate. Your assets will then be divided up according to ‘the rules of intestacy’.
If you have chosen your spouse to act as an executor or trustee then it will be taken as if they have died on the date shown on your decree absolute.
For these reasons it is essential to review your Will after getting divorced.
Marriages and Civil Partnerships
When getting married any previous Wills are automatically revoked, unless you have stated in your Will that you intend to get married and that you require the Will to remain unchanged.
Otherwise, if you get married it would be necessary to amend your Will accordingly.
With regard to Civil Partnerships, the same law applies, and any previous Wills are no longer valid, unless it has been stated that you want the Will to remain unchanged despite the civil partnership.
It is of vital importance to consider how a change in circumstances can affect the legality of your Will.
Depending on how significantly you wish to amend your Will there are two legal ways to do so. It is possible to add a ‘codicil’ or write a new Will.
A codicil is an addition to the current Will, which states what is to be changed and is kept alongside the current Will. It is also possible to write a new Will by revoking the previous Will through destroying it, and stating in the new Will that all previous Wills have been revoked.
A Will should never be altered after it has been signed and witnessed, and any alterations of this nature will not from a valid part of the Will.
If you are making one or two relatively straightforward and simple changes you may choose to write a codicil. The original Will is not altered in any way and the codicil is sufficient to show the amendments.
A codicil may be used if for example there is a change in executor or another beneficiary is to be added. This document will then need to be signed and witnessed and kept with your original Will. It is important that the codicil is signed by the person who signed the original Will. The witnesses do not need to be the same people who witnessed the signing of the original Will.
There are no guidelines on how many codicils’ can be added to a Will, but if there are a significant number of changes it is recommended to devise a new Will.
Writing a new Will
If you want to alter the majority of your Will, then your previous Will and any codicils need to be revoked. The old Will can be revoked by physically destroying it, so it is clear that it was intentionally destroyed e.g. shredding or burning. Otherwise, if the old Will was found and it appeared to have been destroyed by mistake, then it may be seen as legally binding.
When writing a new Will, it should always begin by stating that all previous Wills and codicils have been revoked which means they are no longer legally valid. This is essential to avoid confusion at a later date, if previous Wills were found having not been properly destroyed.
After amending a Will it is advisable to let people know you have done so e.g. family members, trustees, the executors etc.
After the death of a person it is possible to amend their Will through a ‘Deed of Variation’, provided this is carried out within two years of their death. This can be done by the beneficiaries, provided they all agree.
There are several reasons why the beneficiaries may choose to alter the Will, for example, to lower the sum of inheritance tax payable or to ensure new grandchildren are included.
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