Need to Change Your Will?
It is very important that you review your Will at least every 3 years. If your circumstances have changed, it is likely that your Will will need to be updated to reflect those changes. For example, big changes in circumstance such as marriage or divorce can invalidate a Will and it needs to be updated. You could be unexpectedly blessed with a new grandchild that you have not named in your Will and you would like to make sure they are included.
So, what is the best way to update your Will?
We often get phone calls from clients asking for changes to their Wills and they expect that words can simply be added or removed. This is not the case. Your Will is a significant legal document and you cannot add or delete clauses once it has been signed. Wills are executed in such a particular way that doing so could render the will invalid. Even minor changes need to be carried out correctly or the consequences could be costly.
Another common request is for us to complete a “codicil” to make amendments to a Will. A codicil is an addition or supplement that explains, modifies or revokes a Will or part of a Will. Codicils were originally introduced to save costs and time when Wills were typed on a typewriter or handwritten. That meant that a minor change to a Will would not result in the Will needing to be rewritten in its entirety. There is precise legislation that needs to be followed with Will drafting, signing and witnessing. The same applies for codicils. It has to be prepared, signed and witnessed with the same formalities as a Will. Our firm does not recommend that you prepare a codicil to attach to your Will. Now that technology has advanced, the more appropriate method is to make an alteration to the Word document version of the Will and resign it, which revokes your previous Will.
Codicils cannot guarantee your desired wishes and may give rise to legal issues down the track. They may also add time and costs to your Executors who are left in charge of administering your Estate once you have died. Codicils can only be used for minor changes to the Will. They must not be very clear and not contradict any part of your Will. If the codicil is confusing or contradictory, it may be deemed invalid and fail to serve the purpose for which it was intended.
At our firm, our preferred option is to revoke any prior Will and make a new, valid Will. If you completed your original Will at our firm, we can meet with you to discuss your desired amendments, additions or deletions. We will then prepare new drafts for your approval and, if the Will accurately reflects your wishes, it can be signed. If you did not make your Will with us, bring along your copy.
Although we call the above a “Will amendment”, it is essentially a brand new Will. The only difference is that you are not charged the cost of completing a brand new Will. This however depends on whether we have access to a copy of your previous Will on our system. If your Will is quite old, it may be that we will need to start afresh.
It is our obligation to provide you with legal advice if we believe there may be issues with your original Will when you are seeking to amend or update it. Laws are continuously changing over time and it may be that your original Will no longer satisfies the requirements. Therefore, we need to ensure that your new amended Will satisfies the law at the time of signing.
As previously mentioned, it is wise to review your Will at least every 3 years or at the point of any significant change in circumstances in your life. Some examples include:
- Birth of children or grandchildren;
- Buying a significant asset or investment; or
- Becoming involved in a new business, company or trust.
If this sounds like you, please contact us to determine the most appropriate way to ensure your Will reflects your current life situation.