I Need to Change my Will: Do I Need a Codicil? | 5 minute read
Writing a will is an important part of getting older.
Our will protects our estate and assets and ensures our loved ones inherit from us when we pass. Think of it as a security blanket that protects everything you’ve created during your life.
Most people will make the conscious decision to draft a will at some point in their lives. However, many people are unaware of how important it is to keep your will up to date. Your will should always reflect any life changes such as new families, new choices and new surroundings. Failing to do so could result in issues down the line when it comes to inheritance and estate administration.
When do I need to update my will?
We recommend that you review your will every 5 years, even if nothing has really changed, simply because you may spot things in your will that aren’t relevant to you now. Whatsmore, UK laws are constantly changing and updating, so you may need to update your will to reflect these changes.
If you have new children or grandchildren
You’ll want to update your will when you have children (or grandchildren) so that they are included in your will and are documented to inherit from you. If you are writing a will to include children under 18, you may also need to draft a letter of wishes to accompany your will.
If you get married
According to UK law, any existing wills are revoked when you get married. In this instance, you will need to write a new will as opposed to updating your existing one with a codicil.
If you get divorced
Possibly the most important time to update your will.
A divorced partner essentially has the same status as if they passed away before you. This could mean that if you pass away soon after a divorce, and your ex-partner is still the sole beneficiary, your will could fall into the lines of intestacy because there is technically no registered beneficiary.
But don’t worry; a simple way to fix this is to update your will as soon as you finalise your divorce.
There may be other situations when the details of your will are out of date, as opposed to your personal situation. This is could be something as simple as a mistake, a grammatical error, or maybe you’ve changed address.
If one of your beneficiaries passes away before you
When a beneficiary passes away, you’ll need to consider what will happen to the gift that was intended for them, and update your will accordingly.
If the executor passes away/ is no longer suitable
Your executor is responsible for managing your estate when you pass away. If they pass before you do, it’s essential to update your will, as dying without an executor can be highly complex.
Your executor needs to be able to administer your estate to the best degree. If you think they cannot do this or are no longer suitable to administer your estate, you’ll need to update your will.
Why is it important for LGBT people to have up to date wills?
Statistically, fewer LGBT people in the UK choose to marry, as opposed to heterosexual people. Because of this, along with the common belief that wills are only important for married people, many LGBT people don’t have an up to date will, or even a will at all.
The result is that a higher number of LGBT people die in a state of intestacy (a legal term for when someone dies without a will). The impact of intestacy is that the surviving partner risks inheriting nothing from the deceased’s estate.
Intestacy has a rigorous set of rules that outline the distribution of a person’s estate when they pass away without a will. Unfortunately, an unmarried partner is at the bottom of the chain to inherit.
What is a codicil?
A codicil is a document that can amend, update or alter your existing will. It is a separate document that comes alongside your existing will. The codicil will dictate any specific changes to a section of the will without making you write an entirely new one.
Typically, a codicil makes fairly minor changes to a will, such as changing executors or updating beneficiaries. Our partner firm recommends that you make a codicil for a change that affects less than 10% of your will. However, if the change will affect more than that, it’s easier and more cost-effective to entirely re-write your will.
How do I write my codicil?
Your codicil is a relatively simple document to write and very rarely goes over one side of A4.
- The easiest way to write a codicil is to start by identifying anything in your will that you would like to address. Once you’ve noted these down, you can use them as headers for the content of your codicil.
- Your opening statement should explain who you are, where you live, and a declaration of what the document intends to do.
- Following this, you can identify and amend each area that needs attention and acknowledge that the codicil overrides the information in your original will.
- You just need to have the document witnessed by two witnesses; otherwise, it won’t be valid.
How can I locate my will once I've written it?
We frequently have clients call us because they can’t locate their will. For example, this might happen if you wrote your will years ago, and the firm who created the will has since gone into administration.
There are three ways that you can prevent your will from being lost in the future.
- Ask your solicitor for a physical copy and keep it safe in your home. This may sound obvious, but it’s the easiest way to make sure that you have your own personal copy of the will.
- Ask your solicitor to store the will safely in their firm. Most firms will offer free will storage at their offices so that you can locate it with ease.
- Register your will on the National Wills Register. The National Wills Register is a directory that will always document where your will is. It costs £30 to register but is efficient for locating the will and can save you time and money in the future.
Can I update my will without a codicil?
The issue with codicils is that they can make a will unnecessarily complex. In theory, a codicil doesn’t have a page limit, meaning it could have multiple pages of amendments. There is also no official limit on the number of codicils a person can have for one will. Whatsmore, if you’re writing your codicil yourself, you may leave out necessary legal terminology, meaning the amendment could become unclear and confusing.
The more confusing a will becomes, the more likely someone can dispute it when you pass away. So while a codicil can be useful if it’s for one minor change, most solicitors will recommend that you have a new will drafted instead of using a codicil. This way, your wishes are completely clear and accurate (and the price difference between a codicil and a new will is very minor).
Do I need a solicitor for my codicil?
You will need a lawyer if you want to re-draft your will.
A private client lawyer will be able to write a codicil on your behalf to avoid any mistakes and to ensure that you document all of your wishes correctly. Alternatively, if you wish to draft the codicil alone, you’ll need a lawyer to witness the document’s signing. Should you need either of these services, contact our team and we can contact you to a local private client lawyer.
You may want to re-write your will entirely instead of writing a codicil. In this situation, a private client lawyer will go through your wishes with you and will work with you to make a new will.
LGBT Lawyers can connect you to a specialist private client lawyer to help you with whatever query you may have and make sure your will is exactly how you want it to be.