Updating Your Will: A Comprehensive Guide

How often do you need to update your Will?

It is a common occurrence for people to write a Will and then forget about it; they often assume that the document they have made will remain in line with their wishes and/or valid for the rest of their lives, which is rarely the case.

As we journey through life, we encounter many events, some of which warrant updating our Will. Some of these events may even cause the Will we have written to become invalid and, as such, it is important to check our Will regularly. In this article, we shall discuss the circumstances that may warrant updating your Will, so you can rest assured that your estate and loved one are properly cared for when you are no longer here.

When should I update my Will?

  • Buying or selling a property – When you buy or sell a property, you should review your Will. Properties are large financial assets that heavily impact the value of your estate. By adding a new property to your Will, you can ensure that it passes to the person of your choosing.
  • Getting married or entering a civil partnership – Upon entering a marriage or civil partnership, any Will written previously automatically becomes invalid. Failure to make a new Will, in this case, shall result in your estate passing according to the rules of intestacy.
  • Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership – While getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership does not invalidate an existing Will, failure to update said Will may have serious consequences on your estate in the future. As such, you may want to redirect those assets to ensure they end up with whom you want.
  • There is a change of circumstance for my executors, trustees, or guardians – Life often presents us with unexpected circumstances. For example, you may have previously named someone to act as your children’s guardian in the event of your passing, but that person has since developed a long-term illness which means they are no longer to take on the responsibility. Failure to update your Will could mean that it is left up to the courts to decide who is most suitable to act as your children’s guardian.
  • Becoming a parent – Becoming a parent is a huge event in one’s life and one which often shifts a person’s priorities entirely. It is vital to update your Will to include legal guardianship where you can name the person you choose to take care of your children in the event of your passing. Failure to do so means that it will be left up to the courts to decide who will be the most suitable guardian for your children. Furthermore, you will likely want to include your new child (or grandchild) as a beneficiary of your estate.
  • I haven’t checked my Will in years – It is prudent to check your Will every 3 to 5 years. Often, there will have been changes in that time which didn’t immediately prompt you to update your Will, but you may look back at your previous wishes regarding your estate and realise that you have changed your mind about some things.
  • Someone mentioned in my Will passes away – If someone named in your Will dies, then it is wise to update your Will and remove them from it. For example, if a beneficiary named in your Will passes away, you should update your Will and name a new beneficiary to inherit the deceased person’s share. As an alternative measure, you could include a ‘Gift Over’ clause which states that the deceased beneficiary’s share of inheritance is to pass down their bloodline, i.e., their share would pass to their children.
  • There are changes in the Laws surrounding Inheritance Tax – Inheritance Tax Laws can be complex and overwhelming, especially if you own a business or hold assets abroad. As such, tax planning becomes an important consideration when writing a Will. It is important to keep yourself up to date on changes to these laws and, if necessary, update your Will to take these changes into account. If you are uncertain about Inheritance Tax planning, please contact our specialist team for more advice on what you can do to protect your loved one’s inheritance.
  • I decide to donate to a Charity – Since last reviewing your Will, you may have decided that you want to leave something to a charity or organisation. In this case, you will need to alter your Will to ensure your chosen charity receives your donation.
  • When there is a change in my financial situation or value of assets – It is important to review your Will when there is a significant change in your financial situation. If the value of your estate increases or decreases by a considerable amount, this should be reflected in your Will.

How to change your Will

Typically, once a Will has been executed (signed and witnessed), changes should not be made to the original document as this may affect its validity. However, there are several ways that alterations can be made if absolutely necessary.

Firstly, if the required change is minor, such as a change in the name of a beneficiary, an alteration can be made to the original document. To make the change legitimate and to maintain the validity of the Will, the document must then be signed and witnessed in the margin by the testator (the person writing the Will), and the same people who originally witnessed the signing of the Will. This is to comply with Section 21 of the Wills Act (1837).

Another method by which you can change a Will without writing a completely new one is by making an official alteration document known as a codicil. This codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will. It is also worth noting that codicils are only viable when making minor changes, such as a change of a beneficiary’s address.

We highly recommend against using codicils as they are separate from the original document and can easily be lost. Furthermore, if not properly implemented, they can leave a Will more open to contestation. It is generally considered bad legal practice to use a codicil to make major changes to a Will, especially when dealing with your property. 

In most cases, changes to a Will shall require an entirely new Will to be drafted. This is particularly true when making major changes such as a change in executors or adding a new property. When you write a new Will, any previous Will is automatically invalidated by a revocation clause included at the start of the new document. This is the method by which we recommend updating a Will; it negates the need for attaching additional documents and best ensures the validity of the Will.

Updating your Will with ELM Legal Services

After writing your Will with ELM, you can contact us at any time to make an update. If it is a small change that you wish to make, such as a name change, there will be a small administrative fee. However, if you need to make multiple changes; the changes are more significant than a name change, or the Will you have was made by another company, you will need to have an entirely new Will drafted at our standard fee.

When you write a Will with us, you will be given the option of taking out our storage and update service where, for a small monthly fee, your document will be stored in one of our fireproof safes. With this service, you shall also receive access to unlimited free updates whenever you require.

I already have a Will with another company. Can I update it with ELM?

If you have already made a Will with a solicitor, for instance, it is likely they will charge you a considerable amount to update it. Don’t worry, here at ELM we offer a competitive price and would be happy to re-take your instructions. It is worth noting that we would have to create a new Will; however, this would allow you to discuss your needs with one of our professionals and have all your questions answered, so you can rest assured that your loved ones will be catered for in the event that you are no longer here.

I’m an existing client and I want to make updates

Complete the form below and a member of our team will get back to you. Alternatively, you can give us a call on 0117 952 0698.

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