If you have recently reviewed your Will and noticed a few things that you want changing, or maybe a few things that you think need updating, like addresses of your Executors or Beneficiaries for example, your first instinct might be to grab a pen, cross through the information, and write on the document what your new intentions are.
Even if you initialled these changes, and maybe even got these witnessed, there is a chance that by doing this to your legally binding document, it could prove costly to your Estate upon your death.
Amendments that could cause issues in the future include inserting new text into the Will or between lines in the Will, adding additional clauses at the end of the document, deleting text that can still be read and also striking through text entirely so that it can no longer be read.
The reason to refrain from picking up that pen and making changes yourself is primarily down to the chance of your amendments being unclear or outright invalid in the eyes of the Probate Registry, and therefore affecting the validity of that gift, or in some cases, potentially the entire document and therefore all of your wishes.
Your Will however is your legal document therefore meaning you do have a right to revoke it, or any part of it, at any time whilst you still have the capacity to do so. The most common format to ensure any change is legally binding to your current Will, whilst not making an entirely new document, is to complete what is called a Codicil.
What is a Codicil?
This is essentially a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed Will. It allows you to safely make amendments to your wishes without having to draft an entirely new document, and also limits the chances of The Probate Registry making additional enquiries of your Executors about your wishes.
Although Codicils are fairly simple documents, in the sense that they usually only alter or include another clause or two, it is always recommended that a solicitor drafted document is used. This is because a Codicil must make specific reference to your existing Will and must conform to several legal formalities, ensuring that the Codicil is binding.
By allowing a solicitor to draft the document also increases the chance of the acceptance of the document at the Probate Registry. If your amendments drastically change a provision to a person or persons in your Will, then the Probate Registry may assume upon seeing that the document has been solicitor drafted that the solicitor has undertaken the necessary checks for the persons capacity to make that decision, and also limits the chances of undue influence being an issue to raise. This could ensure that a Grant of Probate is swiftly granted to your Executors and limits the chances of further delays in the administering of your Estate.
Not only this but by ensuring your Codicil is drafted by a solicitor it will not leave any room for interpretation of the change, therefore avoiding the chances of the element you were trying to change falling under the Intestacy Rules.
Or do you need a new Will?
Something that should be considered if you do wish to make changes to your Will using a Codicil is that both documents will be read alongside each other by the Executors of your Estate. Therefore, if you are making an extremely large change, or a change that might be negatively viewed by your Beneficiaries, it may be worth to instead draft a new Will in its entirety.
Whenever you create a new Will, the very first clause specifically highlights that this document will revoke all previous Wills, meaning that any decisions you have previously made will never come to light. You could drastically change all of your final wishes, either by including or excluding persons or charities, and this new Will would be the only document referred to upon your death. Many clients opt for this approach as it reduces the chance of upset, arguments or frustration when the time comes for your Executors to divide your Estate, and can be discussed with a solicitor in detail within an initial meeting.
The cost of making a new Will, or invoking a Codicil to your current Will, to reflect your wishes may well be less than the cost on your Estate to deal with potential problems on probate because self-made amendments to your Will are unclear or invalid.
Get in Touch
If you therefore are looking to make any changes to your Will, or perhaps want to discuss the options between Codicils and new Wills, please contact the Private Client team at Barrett & Co Solicitors on 0118 958 9711. We will be happy to discuss the different possibilities of Codicils or new Wills to decide what is best for you.