In our previous posts we have spoken about the importance of having a valid Will that has been correctly signed and witnessed, and kept in safe place. Making a Will is the only way you can be sure that the people and causes you care about most will benefit when you die.
But what then? What if your circumstances change and you need to make amendments? It’s recommended that you review your Will every five years, or sooner if any of the following occur:
- One of your named Executors dies, or you wish to appoint somebody new
- A beneficiary in your Will dies before you
- You get married, separated or divorced
- You have children, or grandchildren
- Your financial circumstances change
- You change your funeral plans
You can make amendments to your Will using a codicil
A Codicil is a legal document which states the changes you want to make. This is a simple and cost effective way to make an alteration. It’s best used for making simple changes and, once signed, needs to be stored with your original Will to make sure your wishes are carried out. For any major changes, it’s recommended you write a new Will.
Change of Executor
It’s important that whoever is listed as Executor has given their permission to be named and that they’re aware of where your Will is stored. If at any point you want to change Executor or the Executor dies before you, you’ll need to update your Will.
A beneficiary dies before you
If someone you’ve left a gift to dies before you, you may wish to ensure that someone else benefits from that gift. That could be their partner or spouse, their children, or another person. Or you may wish to review all the gifts you are making.
You get married, separated or divorced
In England and Wales, if you get married, any existing Will is automatically revoked (cancelled). In these circumstances should you die, your new spouse would inherit your entire estate. If you get divorced, your former spouse would not inherit anything unless they were specifically named in your Will. However separation has no effect on a Will, no matter how long you’ve been apart, and should you die your estranged spouse could still inherit under your Will. So you can see how vital it is to review and renew your Will after a marriage, separation or divorce to ensure that your children, spouse, partner, etc., receive what you intend them to.
The birth of any children or grandchildren
If you have named your children or grandchildren in your Will, an update would be needed to reflect any new births. You may also need to appoint a guardian for a child under the age of 18. This is a simple change and one that could be covered by a Codicil.
Your financial circumstances have changed
If your financial situation has changed you may wish to reduce or increase any amounts gifted in your Will, make alterations to assets listed, or change beneficiaries.
How do you write a Codicil?
It is always recommended that you consult a Will-writing specialist or a solicitor when making changes to your Will, however you can draw up a Codicil yourself. A quick search online will provide you with a number of templates you can download free of charge.
There isn’t a set legal format you need to follow, however it must meet the following criteria to be legally binding:
- The Codicil must be written on? a piece of paper and not physically attached to your Will
- It must include your full name
- You must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind
- The Codicil should be numbered, as should any subsequent Codicils (e.g. First Codicil, Second Codicil)
- It must be signed and witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries in your Will.
Many charities, including Royal Star & Garter, also have template Codicils on their websites which can be used to leave a gift and make other changes.
If you go on to write a new Will at any point after writing your Codicil(s), your new Will should include a revocation clause making it clear that it officially cancels all previous Wills and Codicils.
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