The last eighteen months have been somewhat unusual for everyone. It has meant that families have been unable to see each other and left many people feeling quite alone. During the pandemic we have seen an increase in requests for new Wills and it has been enlightening to hear some of the motivations.
Can I amend an existing Will?
A person can amend their Will whilst they are alive and have the mental capacity to do so, and they can do this as many times as they wish. During the pandemic, we have had clients amend their Wills once, sometimes twice because of their changing circumstances. When you want to amend your Will, you can either amend your existing Will through the use of an additional document called a Codicil, or you can make a whole new Will.
What is a Codicil?
A Codicil is a legal binding document, like your Will, which sits alongside your Will and, together they form your Last Will and Testament. Whilst a Codicil does not amend the physical appearance of your Will, it uses words to change particular aspects of your Will. For example, if you wanted to change your nominated Executors, alter the amount of a gift or add a new gift, this can be done by Codicil.
Can I remove a beneficiary?
If when you die, a Grant of Probate is required to administer your estate, your Will (together with any Codicils) become public. Therefore, we do not recommend that you use a Codicil if you wish to remove a gift to anyone who is still alive in your Will.
If you want to amend a few aspects of your Will, or you want to remove a beneficiary, then it would probably be best to make a new Will. This new Will would revoke any earlier Wills and Codicils.
How often should I review my Will?
We recommend that you review your Will every five years, or sooner if there is a change in your personal circumstances. A change in personal circumstances could include a change in your finances, divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, moving house etc. It is important to note that marriage automatically revokes a Will unless the Will was drafted to account for that particular marriage. Therefore, if you get married, you should obtain advice in relation to your Will. If your original Will is damaged, annotated or tampered with in any way then this could invalidate your Will and you should seek advice.
What if I have no beneficiaries in mind?
One of the most unfortunate situations we, as legal advisors and Will drafters, come across is people who have been successful and accumulated assets throughout their lifetime but, ultimately, have no family or close friends. This is an all too common situation and understandably distressing for the person wanting to now make, or amend, their Will.
Whilst anyone can make a new Will, it is important that the Will is validly executed and it is also important that you obtain advice when you intend to change your Will in a way that may cause issues.
Should I discuss my wishes with loved ones?
During the pandemic, a lady who had two daughters; one of whom lived locally and the other who lived some distance away, wanted to change her Will to leave a larger proportion to the local daughter. The reason for this was that the local daughter had been able to assist her more during lockdown with shopping etc. Whilst this initially appeared perfectly reasonable to our client, she later realised it was probably a bit unfair and may cause unnecessary conflict on her death.
This demonstrates the importance of obtaining advice and having your Will drawn up correctly. It also underlines the importance of discussing your wishes with those closest to you to avoid conflicts after you’ve gone. Unfortunately, decisions like this made now affect the future as well as the present.
How ZEDRA Estate Planning can help
There is no substitute for making a Will and you should review your Will regularly to ensure that it still reflects your wishes and circumstances. At ZEDRA we are happy to make a new Will or discuss an existing Will and any changes that you wish to make. Contact Charlotte Isherwood to find out more.