Changes to a will reflect changes to a person’s life, such as a marriage/civil partnership, divorce/separation, the birth of a child (who does not automatically become a beneficiary) or a change in financial circumstances, for example, when an individual sells a property or receives an inheritance. It may also be the case that a beneficiary to an existing will has died, or that the testator simply wishes to change how their estate is distributed following their death.
Major events can also affect the validity of an existing will. A marriage or entry into a civil partnership, for example, means that a previous will is automatically invalidated, while if a person divorces or dissolves a civil partnership and the former spouse or civil partner is the sole beneficiary, the deceased will be held to have died intestate (without a valid will). Various other complexities regarding the rights of former partners highlight the need to update a will as soon as possible following a separation.
Generally speaking, simple changes to a will, such as appointing a new executor to redirecting a bequest to a different beneficiary, can be made via a codicil, while more significant changes, such as those outlined above, will require the writing of a new will to replace the old one. Codicils are the cheaper alternative but can add to the complexity of administering an estate in the future (particularly if there is more than one codicil), as all the documents will need to be evaluated together, which may result in the deceased’s wishes being misinterpreted.
Drafting a new will can avoid any confusion as to the intentions of the deceased, as well as the possibility of a codicil being lost for whatever reason. When a new will is written, all copies of old wills and codicils should be destroyed, and the new will should clearly state that it revokes (cancels) any such previous documents. If an estate requires a Grant of Probate, both a will and any alterations made by a codicil will be publicly visible, and a further reason for writing a new will is to prevent disclosure of such changes.
Louise Nelson has been handling wills, trusts and probate matters in Liverpool and Merseyside for 39 years, and is assisted by Fran Cartwright, an accomplished solicitor specialising in this area of law. Get in touch with our team for a no obligation quotation.