Dependent on your personal circumstances, it is generally advisable to review your Will every 3-5 years or after a significant life event (such as a death, marriage, divorce etc) or a change to the value of your estate. Even if the changes appear to be minor, advice should be obtained as to how your Will should be amended.
Examples of Will changes can include:
- One of the executors has died or you wish to change the executors
- You want to add additional legacies, perhaps to charity
- You wish to alter the size of a cash gift or change the recipient
- You would like to change the guardians appointed
To effect these changes, you can either make a new Will or make a Codicil to your existing Will.
Whichever route you choose we would always recommend that you take the opportunity to consider the tax implications of the changes you are making in the light of your circumstances.
The Will option
Making a new Will provides an opportunity to fully consider and update all the clauses in your current Will and to check that they align with your wishes now. Although it’s not necessary to change your will simply when addresses change, it’s an opportunity to make sure that these are current.
Where there are substantial and significant amendments being made to your current Will such as changing the shares or division of your residuary estate or changing the residuary beneficiaries, it is recommended that a new Will is drawn up rather than making the changes by codicil.
Whilst making a new Will can be costlier than making a Codicil, dependent on your circumstances and the changes you wish to make, a new Will may be the better and advised option.
The codicil option
An alternative option is a Codicil. This is a separate document that references changes to the existing Will. It does not replace the existing Will but rather, sits alongside the original document.
On a practical level, the formalities are the same as for a Will signing including; it must be signed and dated in the presence of two independent witnesses. The signing process for a codicil is therefore not quicker than the signing process for a Will. If the formalities are not followed correctly, then it can invalidate the codicil and the changes made in that document, leaving the original and unchanged will as valid testamentary document.
The codicil option is usually advised for minor, straightforward amendments to the Will such as adding or removing an executor. Dependent on the circumstances, it can be a cheaper and quicker option to effect these smaller changes. You can also make more than one codicil and all the original codicils should be stored alongside your original Will.
Codicils can however create issues and cause complications for example if they have not been stored with the original Will and your executors are unaware of their existence on your death. If they are inadvertently disregarded, it will result in problems during the estate administration should they subsequently be found.
There is also the opportunity for confusion in interpreting a will with multiple codicils, and the risk of inadvertent or unintended revocation without professional guidance.
Furthermore, a Will becomes a public document when submitted for probate. Any Codicils would also need be submitted to the Probate Registry with the Will and would all become public documents at that point. It would therefore be possible for people to see any amendments made by those codicils which can cause unnecessary upset.
Which option should I choose?
Generally, it is advised that a new Will is made for any significant changes due to the potential risks and difficulties, which could arise through making a codicil, and particularly multiple codicils.
However, the approach taken will very much depend on your personal circumstances and the changes in question. Therefore, if you are considering making changes to your Will, it is always advisable to speak with a lawyer who can review your position with you and advise as to whether making a new Will or Codicil is the best approach.
If you would like to review your Will or if you have any questions, please contact one of our Will solicitors.
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