As circumstances in your life change, you may find that there are parts of your will that you wish to change as well.
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to scrap your existing will and write an entirely new one if you only want to make a few tweaks to it. A lot of the time, these changes can be made through a legal document called a ‘codicil’.
A codicil can accompany your will to change how your estate is passed on, name a different executor or alter your funeral plans. In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why you might want a codicil, and how to go about getting one.
Do you need to change your will?
There are lots of reasons you might decide to change your will, and not just because you have changed your mind about what you want to happen to your assets. Here are a few examples:
- You want to add a new beneficiary – if you have had a new child or grandchild since your will was originally written, you could change your will to include them.
- You want to change your executor – if the executor named in your will is no longer in a position to do so, or you just want to change them, this can be done with a codicil.
- You want to update your wishes for your funeral – your will can include preferences for how you want your funeral to be carried out. If you have changed your mind about any of this, you can specify any alterations in a codicil.
- You want to change the distribution of your estate – if your financial circumstances have altered or you have simply changed your mind about how you want your assets to be passed on, a codicil can be suitable for making small amends.
How to change your will
If you wish to draw up a codicil to make changes to your will, the best way to do so is usually by contacting the solicitor or firm who helped you write the will in the first place. They will normally be able to help you write a codicil that checks all the legal boxes and makes it clear what your desired changes are.
Once your codicil has been drawn up, it will need to be signed and witnessed by two people in the same manner as your will (though it doesn’t have to be the same two people). Your executor or executors should also be made aware that the codicil exists. Find out more about executors in our article What is an executor? Once it has been finalised, your codicil should be stored in the same place as your will so that it doesn’t get missed out.
If you wrote your will using an online service, they may not offer the option to write codicils, but will normally be able to redraft it.
You should not attempt to simply edit your will by hand. A will that has been physically edited will likely be rejected altogether by the Probate Registry.
How much does a codicil cost?
A codicil will usually cost between £20 and £80, though the exact cost will depend on the solicitor or service you are using and the complexity of the codicil itself.
How often should you review your will?
It is generally wise to review your will once every five years. This will allow you to consider what has changed in your life and decide whether the current contents of your will still reflect your wishes. It is also usually wise to review your will after a big life change, such as a significant shift in finances or a change in your family.
Should you get a codicil or write a new will?
Codicils are best suited to small alterations and tweaks, and can complicate matters quickly if they are too elaborate, contain too many changes, or contradict too much of the original document.
If the changes you are making to your will are relatively substantial, you may be better off having your will rewritten instead of getting a codicil. This will help avoid the hassle of having multiple conflicting documents and enable you to consolidate all of your wishes in one place.
Be aware that getting married automatically voids your will in England and Wales, unless your will specifically references the upcoming marriage. If you die without writing a new one, you will have died intestate in the eyes of the law, meaning you effectively won’t have a will, and your estate will be passed on according to intestacy rules. You can read more about this in our article Sorting out an estate when someone dies without a will.
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