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Does A Change Of Circumstances Mean You Should Change Your Will

Generally advice suggests that you evaluate your will every 5 years and certainly after any major life event such as:

Getting Separated Or Divorced

If you get divorced or your civil partnership is dissolved, your Will does not automatically become invalid. However, many of its provisions would no longer be effective if you die before making a new Will. Any assets you wished to leave to your former spouse or civil partner would take effect as if they had died on the date your divorce was completed meaning the gift remains within the estate for the benefit of the other named beneficiaries.

If your Will states that all assets are to be left to your spouse, then it would be as if you died intestate (without a Will).

If you had appointed your spouse as an executor of the will or a trustee, then when you became divorced they would be unable to act as such after your death (not the case in Scotland).

For these reasons, we suggest that you make a new Will as soon as possible after your divorce.

Getting Married / Civil Partnership

When you get married, any previous Will that you made is automatically voided. The only exception to this is if your Will states that a marriage is imminent and contains explicit instructions that you intend for the Will to remain valid after marriage.

Since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act in December 2004, partners in a Civil Partnership are considered in the same way married couples are. Any Will that either partner has previously made will be automatically revoked, except in Scotland where this law does not apply. Therefore getting married does not automatically mean that your existing Will is revoked.

Birth of a Child / Grandchild

If you have a child after writing your Will, they do not necessarily become beneficiaries upon your death, even if you have named your other children as such. All children must be named individually to benefit from your estate. In order to ensure this happens you should update your Will as soon as possible after the birth of a child.

Similarly, if your Will refers to the grandchildren specifically by name, rather than as a generic group, it will be necessary to amend your Will to include your new grandchild.

Moving House

Moving house comes with many legal twists and turns and invariably indicates a discrepancy in assets from your original will. Your will must be changed to reflect the property in your ownership.

Financial Change

If you encounter a significant change in finances this must be reflected in the estate outlined in your will. If they change for the better you must state to whom you will leave it in the Will and similarly, if they change for the worse, you should review your Will and ensure you leave only what’s available.

Failure to reflect a realistic overview of finances may mean your Will becomes invalid and you run the risk of dying without your intents being accurately reflected.

The Executor Or Beneficiary Named In The Will Dies

This one speaks for itself.

You cannot alter the actual document that has been signed and witnessed. The only way a will can be changed is by an official alteration called a codicil. If you would like to make quite significant changes to your will, then it might be better to write a new one altogether. If you choose to do this then the old will must be destroyed.

You can make small changes to your will – such as changing the executors or adding a beneficiary – by using a document called a codicil . You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as you would witness a will.

Codicils

A codicil is a document that needs to be signed and witnessed in the same you would a will.

It allows amendments and alterations to be made to a will, which can be significantly less hassle that writing a new will altogether. Another benefit of using a codicil rather than writing a new will is that it is far cheaper too. You can change pretty much any aspect of your will using a codicil, there are no hard and fast rules. You can change anything from a single sentence to all the separate sections of your will. However, most legal professionals will encourage you to only use codicils for minor changes because they can make the execution of your will more complicated when you die.

A codicil needs to be signed and witnessed in the same way as your original will was and kept in the same place as the original will. Different witnesses can be used though. We would suggest that you avoid using someone as a witness if they or their spouse benefits from an amendment made in the codicil as it will make the gesture invalid.

There are two different types of codicil:

  • The first involves adding a clause to the original Will. This could bequeath a new asset, or one that you may accidentally omitted at the time of writing your Will.
  • The second involves revoking an existing clause and replacing it with a new one. This could revoke a previous gift for whatever reason and/or leaving something to a new beneficiary.

When Is Writing A New Will A Better Idea?

To find out about the cost of writing a will take a look at our section dedicated to costing wills. Prices depend on many factors including complexity and location. If you get a quote for a will ensure it includes VAT. Writing a new will is advisable if you want to make anything more than very small changes to the original.

Writing a new will is the same as writing your will for the first time but with a few new things to consider.

  • You need to make sure that your new will clearly states that any prior wills have been revoked. The same goes for any codicils you made in the past.
  • If you own assets in different parts of the world and have a will held in that location covering your foreign assets you need to make explicit statements to ensure that your new will does not inadvertently revoke the other will.
  • Make sure any wills which are now void are destroyed. Also destroy any copies by preferably shredding them, burning them or tearing them. If more than one will is found it could lead to all kinds of disputes and claims. In the worst case scenario the law would take over and decide who gets what.
  • Tell the executor of your will where your new will is located so they can find it when the time comes.

An important aspect to bear in mind is that if your Estate requires a Grant of Probate when you die, the terms in your original Will and Codicil become a public record. This means that if you do not want the changes you have made to be seen by others then you should consider writing a new Will instead. Things like this usually come to light if a Beneficiary is removed from a will or the amount they believe they are to inherit has been reduced and documented in Codicil.

This is another reason why many people choose to write a new Will rather than make an alteration, even though the cost of getting a new Will is typically more expensive than having a Codicil.

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