When to update your will

When to update your will


Life circumstances change over time, as does the value of your assets. We recommend regular reviews of your will to ensure it best reflects what you'd like to happen to your estate when you die.

When to update your will

Your will should certainly be reviewed in the following cases:

  • If your marital status changes
  • If you sell anything that is left as a specific gift in your will
  • If you buy something and want to leave it as a specific gift in your will
  • If you adopt or have (additional) children
  • If you move to live outside the UK (you are likely to need a totally new will in your new country of residence)
  • If the person you appointed as the guardian for your children needs to be changed
  • If your executors need to be changed
  • If you change your mind about the instructions contained in your will

Your will is valid until you make a new will (thereby 'revoking' the old will). Your will can also be revoked by destroying it.

Changing your will by way of a codicil

A codicil gives you an opportunity to make minor alterations to your will without the need to draft a completely new will. It should be remembered that a codicil is an independent document in itself. If you subsequently cancel your will, you might not cancel your codicil automatically.

If you wish to cancel changes made by way of a codicil, you must make it clear in making your new will or prepare a new codicil if the changes are of a minor nature.

A codicil is similar to a will but generally it is supplemental to a will that has been previously made. The codicil is subject to the same formal requirements as the will.

For all practical purposes, codicils are used to make straightforward additions or amendments to an existing will. These include the change of an executor, a change to a specific gift or the addition of a beneficiary, and any other minor alterations that may be required. Where it is necessary to make more fundamental changes to the will, it is advisable to consider making a new will.

A codicil can exist independently of any will. If the testator cancels a will but does not cancel a codicil that was made subsequent to the will, it may result in there being inconsistencies that should be avoided. For this reason the revocation clause in a subsequent will should express a clear intention to revoke all former wills and testamentary dispositions (i.e. documents that are wills or alter existing wills (e.g. codicils) or are part of existing wills or qualify as informal writings (see below under the heading 'Informal writings'.).

Types of codicils

There are many different situations which can arise where you might want to make alterations to your will using a codicil. Some of these are described below:

  • To appoint a substitute executor on death of executor
  • To make an additional gift to an existing beneficiary
  • When an executor no longer wishes to act as an executor
  • To cancel a gift made in your will to a beneficiary

Informal writings

Your will may contain a clause instructing your executors to give effect to any informal writings found after your death. These can be as simple as a note of items dated and signed by you which you want to leave to a particular person with a note of who they are to go to. These can be useful to dispose of minor items of estate but need to be used with great care to ensure that you do not accidentally create confusion or uncertainly. It is very important that if you use these, they should be clearly intended to be read as part of your will and not contradict or cause confusion as a result of what you have already stated in your will. You should also always make sure when making a new will that any informal writings you have previously made are cancelled at the same time.

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