Writing a will is a vital part of life planning. It’s also something we tend to do once, and then forget about for years, even decades. Life moves on, but your written will remains the same, locked in a safe, and it won’t reflect changes in your circumstances.
That’s why it’s important to review and change your will on a regular basis. It’s amazing how many life events can happen and not be reflected in your will. You might have new grandchildren, new in-laws, been through a divorce, have a new partner, or sold your business. What’s more, your original executor may no longer able to take on the role, and you need to appoint a new executor. Changes in legislation may also impact any tax planning you intended.
To update or amend your will, call Panthera Estate Planning. We offer a free, no-obligation Will Review for all new clients. To book your online review via Skype, Zoom or phone:
How to change a will
Changing or updating a will is a simple process. You can either:
- Write a new will and revoke (cancel) the old will
- Add a codicil document listing small changes to your original will
For most people, the easiest way is to simply write a new will to replace the old one. Codicils are primarily designed for minor changes only, and since they are a separate document, they must be kept safely with the original will. It is safer and often easier to simply rewrite the will with the updated information included. (More on codicils later in this article!)
Why use a will writer to update a will
Wills are relatively straightforward as legal documents go, but it is important that they are worded correctly to ensure your wishes are made clear. A professional will writer will ensure that your will states exactly who is to inherit what, that your new will complies with the current legislation, and is properly signed.
As local will writers, we will ensure that your will is properly witnessed too; we have done this throughout lockdown. We have even joined witnesses who sign papers on car bonnets on a driveway to properly observe social distancing! We will also make sure that your new will clearly says that it revokes any older wills or codicils – you may be surprised how often that gets missed out by people who make their own wills without professional help.
We can also provide a Will Clarity Statement that documents the changes. This provides additional protection against future claims on your will if people have been removed. More details here.
Interested in our will writing service to update your will?
Reasons to update your will
There are many life events that require you to spend time amending a will:
For many people, a named spouse is the main beneficiary of their will. Unless you wish that to continue after your divorce, you will need to change the main beneficiaries.
Your will is automatically revoked/void on remarriage. You will have to write a new one so that your new spouse inherits, but not their children, for example. If you do not do this, the government will decide what happens to your estate (known as dying ‘intestate’).
When you remarry, you may become part of a new blended family, with step-children as well as your own to consider in your will. A will, along with family trusts and other tax-efficient strategies, can ensure all your children receive the inheritance you wish, and that they feel fairly treated. You may also wish to stipulate in your will that certain assets and family heirlooms stay within your bloodline family. Your will may still just say ‘to my children/grandchildren’, which will mean all legal children. You will need to name them individually to ensure they receive a specific inheritance.
Your adult children may have quite different requirements now they are grown and with partners and families of their own. They may not need to inherit the house, or be willing to inherit the business. Equally, you may not wish your future son/daughter-in-law benefit from your estate. Look at their current needs and future needs, and reflect that in your will.
A new generation, including grandchildren
Your adult children may have families of their own, who you may wish to support in their future lives. Again, trusts and other tax efficient measures can ensure your valued legacy will help them long after you have gone.
Account for all your assets
Hopefully, your assets have grown since you last made a will. You may have acquired more property, jewellery, or other assets. Those you have may have listed in a will already substantially increased in value. You may therefore wish to reallocate any that you only want certain people to inherit.
Add a bequest to charity
Many charities are facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You may wish to now include a bequest to a favourite charity in your will, to help support them in the future. Some major charities offer a free will writing service in the hope that you’ll include a legacy to them as a result. However, these are usually basic will writing services, and won’t offer the breadth of estate planning advice you get when writing a will with Panthera Estate Planning. If you wish to make a charitable bequest in any will we write for you, we’ll make sure the charity gets the maximum benefit from it.
Changes in legislation
Legislation is always changing and this can impact the structure of your will. For example, you may have trusts and Inheritance Tax planning built into your will that are no longer as efficient or effective.
Adding a codicil to your will
A codicil is a simple document that details how you want to amend your will. By using a codicil, you don’t have to rewrite your existing will from scratch, and you can, in theory, make as many amendments as you wish.
However, a codicil can complicate the execution of your will when you die.
- It’s a separate document, but must remain attached to the main will. So security of document storage is important.
- Executors will have to cross-reference your will with the codicil, to make sure they understand the changes and are complying with your wishes.
- A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as your full will.
- Anyone who benefits from a gift listed in the codicil cannot be a witness to it.
In practical terms, a codicil can be cheaper than a rewrite, but for the modest difference in price and the requirement for a codicil to be signed, it is far better to redraft a brand new will. A single will document is be clearer, safer and easier to store than two separate documents.
No will? Make one now!
Remember, if you die without making a will (intestate), and the line of succession isn’t clear, the government could get everything. Making a will with the help of Panthera Estate Planning ensures those you love get what you want them to get, and the taxman gets as little as possible.
When you make a will with Panthera Estate Planning, we will talk through other ways to secure your assets for future generations, such as family trusts and other tax efficient methods. There’s no obligation, just some expert advice to help you understand what’s available and how effective it might be for you and your family.