How to update your Will
We explain how you can change your Will and what to do if you want to update a Will after someone has died.
Everything you need to know about updating your Will
Do you need to change your Will? Maybe a new child or grandchild has entered the scene, or your financial position has changed. Here we explore everything you need to know about updating your Will.
It’s worth checking your Will regularly to see if everything is still relevant and as you wish.
You should consider changing your Will if any of the following changes in circumstances apply to you:
- New children or grandchildren
- Death of a beneficiary
- Change of executor
New children or grandchildren
Having children or grandchildren is a very common reason for changing a Will, to ensure these new additions to the family become beneficiaries.
A Will should be changed if you get married, as in England and Wales, a Will becomes invalid after marriage unless it was specifically written to reflect that marriage.
If you get divorced, you will need to re-evaluate your estate and ensure that your estate is split equally among your beneficiaries. In England and Wales, a divorce only affects the gift left to the ex-partner, and the rest of the Will is unchanged.
Death of someone named in your Will
If someone named in your Will dies, you’ll need to decide where their share of your estate goes.
Change of executor
In addition, you also need to update your Will if you want to change the executor. This might occur if the previously named executor no longer wants responsibility for sorting out your estate after you have passed away.
If you want to change your Will, it's really important that any updates don't invalidate the document.
Firstly, you can't just get a biro out and alter the content of your Will after it has been signed and witnessed. This will almost certainly invalidate your Will. The same goes for adding any additional pages and clipping them in.
To change your Will, you either need to replace it completely and prepare a new one or you can add a codicil which also then needs to be witnessed and signed to ensure it is valid.
There are two options for changing your Will:
- Adding a codicil
- Making a brand new Will
A codicil allows for minor alterations to be made to a Will. While there is no limit to the number of codicils that can be added to a Will, they still need to be witnessed and signed in the same manner as Wills.
If you have more than one or two minor changes, it’s generally recommended that you write a new Will.
A codicil is a document that allows you to make minor amends to a Will without needing to rewrite the original document.
A codicil is an amendment made to your Will, without needing to create a new Will. Codicils are normally used for minor changes or small additions, such as leaving a gift to charity. It's worth knowing that a codicil must still be witnessed and signed to uphold the validity of the Will.
Codicils can be used for small, minor changes, usually to save time and money rather than having a new Will prepared.
It's worth considering that one of their functions was to save people the hassle of writing out an entire Will for a second time.
With the advent of computers, you can make these changes without having to write out the entire Will again from scratch, so some people may find it simpler to re-do the Will rather than adding a codicil.
In general, it's recommended that codicil’s are used for minor changes such as:
- Changing the value or recipient of a gift, including leaving gifts to charities
- Appointing a new executor, trustee or guardian
- Altering funeral arrangements
Any additional changes beyond those listed above are likely to mean it's simpler to rewrite the entire Will. Similarly, If you’re looking to make more than one of these changes at once, it’s recommended that you make a new Will rather than use a codicil. The reason for this is to ensure your Will is easy to understand and doesn't cause any confusion by having lots of changes within it.
Here are a few templates that show the language and structure needed in a codicil:
The short and simple answer here is no, your Will cannot be changed by an executor.
Executors named in your Will have a duty to act in the interests of the estate and those named within the estate (beneficiaries). An executor cannot change the Will to suit their own needs or gain but there are some occasions when alterations to the Will can be made. When these occasions arise, an executor will require permission of all beneficiaries and this can be done through a Deed of Variation.
Understanding a Deed of Variation
A deed of variation is a document that can be entered into if there is an agreement by all executors and beneficiaries. It is used to alter how a person’s share is distributed. This is only available in certain circumstances and cannot be entered into to increase one person’s benefit whilst decreasing anothers.
Through a deed of variation, an executor can only make changes for their own share of the estate. A deed of variation is sometimes used if for example, a person does not want all of their inheritance and would like for this to go to someone else. This also reduces inheritance tax but all those named in the Will must agree before such a change can happen. A deed of variation cannot be used to change other people’s inheritance.
Changing a Will using a codicil through a solicitor will usually cost between £30 and £70.
The cost depends on the service you are using, the complexity of the codicil and the number of codicils you want to instruct for. It is advised to discuss this with your solicitor or Will writer first and they can advise on the cost and whether it's worth doing instead of creating a new Will.
It's worth paying this fee rather than completing the codicil yourself as there is an inherent risk that it might be lost or ignored if not filed correctly.
Once a codicil has been written, it’s best practice to let your executor know that this change has been made and where you will store the document.
The cost of rewriting a Will is similar, with Will writers such as Co-op Legal Services offering updates at a fee of £60 for Single Wills and £90 for Mirror Wills. For this reason, some people prefer to have the Will rewritten entirely, as the cost is similar and it avoids the risk of losing information in separate codicil documents.
Another way of changing a Will is through subscription to an online Will writing service like Farewill. For an annual subscription of £10 (and with the first year free), you can make unlimited changes to your Will.
If a codicil isn’t a viable option for updating your Will then it’s likely your Will will need to be rewritten. The cost of writing your Will varies depending on how you decide to do it.
- Some online Will writing services allow you to write a simple Will for free.
- A simple Will from a Will writer or bank could start from around £80.
- Solicitors will charge £100 and upwards, depending on the complexity of the Will.
- If you need to reflect more complicated circumstances in your Will or would like to include a trust, you should expect to pay around £500 or more.
Find out more in our guide on the the cost of making a Will.
An executor named in a Will cannot be changed after death, though executors are able to seek advice if needed to assist them in their duties. For example, an executor can instruct solicitors to be project managers and assist with the probate.
This means that the solicitor will explain what needs to be done and when, assisting with those arrangements. A solicitors firm can provide as much or as little support as you seek. This can include assistance with the funeral arrangements, cleaning the home left behind and often, supporting an executor during such a difficult time.
An executor can be removed from a Will if the executor is not performing their duties correctly. However it is not an easy process and could result in assistance from the Civil Courts.
A Will can be changed up to two years after a person has passed away.
For this to happen, all beneficiaries left worse off by the changes need to agree.
It’s often thought that a declaration or deed of variation is needed to make changes to a Will after someone has died, but you don’t need to be this formal. A simple letter (still known as a variation) will do in most cases.
To make changes to a Will after the named party has died, several conditions must be met, including:
- Being dated within two years of the date of death.
- Being signed by all those adversely affected.
- Clearly indicating what has changed compared to the original Will.
- A Stamp Duty exemption certificate if amending the recipients of stocks, shares or marketable securities.
Furthermore, the variation may not be effective for tax purposes if it:
- Changes an interest in assets held in a trust or assets given away but with a reserved benefit.
- Alters assets or entitlements that have already been amended.
- Adds assets to the estate and paid to an original beneficiary to compensate for their losses.
Lastly, if the variation affects inheritance tax or Capital Gains tax of this or any other estate, you will need to send a copy of the variation to HMRC. In these instances, executors and administrators must sign the variation, and it must also be submitted within six months of the date of the variation.
Use GOV.UK's Instrument of Variation checklist to work out if the variation will meet all necessary legal requirements.
The only changes that cannot be made to a Will after someone’s death are to the guardians and executors named in the Will. It’s also worth considering that if a beneficiary is a minor, they won’t be able to consent to any changes legally, so you must either wait until they are 18 or stick with the Will as it is.
A-Z of Wills
Confused by all the legal jargon? Here we explain what the most common legal terms mean.