Last week, we discussed the importance of not only having a Will in place but also the need to review and update your Will as life goes on. This included some of the pivotal life moments that may make an amendment to your Will essential and you may now be wondering about updating your will. In this part, we consider the best ways to amend your Will, whether minor or substantial changes.
There are several ways in which you can amend your Will and the relevant option is normally dependent on what kind of change is required.
1. Informal Writings
An Informal Writing is a small note or letter to your Executors which often addresses minor elements of your estate, such as the distribution of personal possessions. It can be legally binding in the right circumstances but is treated as a postscript to the contents of your Will so both documents are used to administer your estate.
At BTO, we include a standard clause in all of our Wills to ensure that any informal writings you put in place can be relied upon by your Executors.
2. Annotations on your Existing Will
Many people assume that they can simply ‘mark up’ their existing Will to note any changes. However, any alterations made to a Will after the date it has been signed are assumed to have been made at a later date, and therefore do not form part of the original and legally valid Will. Doing so can result in time-consuming and expensive legal proceedings to determine whether the annotations should be accepted. If you wish to amend your Will in this way, you should consult one of the BTO team before doing so.
If minor amendments need to be made, a Codicil is likely the best option. This is a document taken as supplementary to the original Will, amending certain points whilst leaving the rest in place. It must be signed and witnessed in the same way that the original Will was witnessed – although the identity of the witnesses can change. There is no limit on the number of Codicils that can be drafted, which allows you to review and amend your Will as much as you wish.
4. Replacement Will
Where your wishes or circumstances have changed substantially, a new Will may need to be drafted. It is essential that this new Will properly takes account of the original Will, with a clause revoking all previous deeds.
In these circumstances, the original Will should also be disposed of properly. If a copy of the original Will were to reappear, there could be an argument that it remains valid, often leading to a time-consuming and costly legal action.
In summary, while it is important to update a Will, it is not advisable to do this on your own. In these circumstances, it is best to obtain legal advice to assess your options. We will be able to advise properly on whether or not a Will needs to be updated and, if so, how to ensure this is done correctly and efficiently to make sure that the Will in place achieves your wishes and suits your circumstances.