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How different life events can change the contents of a will

There are a number of different life events that could impact your will. This post outlines some of the most common reasons that you might need to change the document to ensure it is up to date. If you created your will years ago and don’t remember the exact instructions for executors, it is important to consider whether it may now need to change.

Your will should be a complete, but working document that you check every few years. In order for a will to be valid, it should be voluntarily made by someone who is 18 years old or older. The will should be presented in writing, signed by the person who made it and two witnesses who were present when the testator signed the will. 

Just because your will is valid, it doesn’t mean that it is complete and you’ll never have to look at it again. Some of the significant life events that may impact your will are included below.

Wedding or divorce

If you remarry or enter into a civil partnership, your previously existing will becomes invalid.

If there are significant changes to be made, or you need to exclude someone from your will, you’ll need to create a new will and cancel the old document. 

In addition to a wedding affecting a will, going through a divorce can also have an impact on your estate. A divorce doesn’t revoke a will; however, once the decree absolute has been issued, the former spouse of the testator will be treated as if they have died for the purposes of the will. 

This means that any instructions in the will to leave assets to a spouse or civil partner will be disregarded. The assets which would have been distributed to the former husband or wife are instead redistributed amongst the other beneficiaries. Clearly, this may not be the ideal scenario and we would recommend changing your will so that you can decide for yourself how your assets are to be distributed.

The death of a family member

If you experience a death in the family, you may need to go back to your will to redistribute any assets that would have gone to the deceased; unless, that is, you have already specified who will receive these assets in the event of a death. If you don’t reallocate these assets, then the failed gift will be returned to the residue of your estate, which could cause an issue for executors.


Births, for example, the birth of a grandchild

When your family grows and a new child is born, it may be that you would like to redistribute your wealth evenly, so it is worth revisiting your will at this point to make sure the new addition is included in your will.

Many new parents may not have an existing will. If this is you, this means that, should anything happen to you or your spouse, your child may not be protected in the way you wish. We have a guide to will writing for new parents that can explain to you why you should make a will, or update an existing one, what happens if you don’t, and the key things to include in your will for your children.


Moving house

Your will should be reviewed if you move home to ensure it considers the new property, and to also ensure that it is not affected by the disposal of the old property.

This is particularly true when considering the way in which you own a property with someone else. If you own a property with someone as “joint tenants”, the property automatically passes to the surviving proprietor, regardless of what you have stated in your will. If you own a property with someone else as “tenants in common”, you can control where the share of the property passes under the terms of your will. 

It is also best practice to keep your address up to date in your will, though an incorrect address does not affect the validity of the document. A note of your new address can be placed within your will and you do not need to change your will simply to amend an address.

How to update your will

If you want to update your will, it is important to consider whether you only want to make a minor change or if you need to rewrite the current document and create a new one. 

If you have a number of changes to make or think that a codicil will be confusing, it’s time to create a brand new will. 

Our expert team of will writing solicitors will be able to let you know if you need to rewrite your will. 


What is a codicil? 

A codicil is a legal document that allows you to amend an existing will. It acts as a supplement and can explain, modify, or revoke certain parts of your will. The advantage of using a codicil to alter a will is that it avoids the need to write a new will altogether and it is often a cheaper option if the changes you want to make are not widespread.

Using a codicil, you can make minor changes to your will, such as:

  • Changing your executor
  • Updating beneficiaries - adding new ones or removing existing ones
  • Updating gifts
  • Updating guardian selection
  • Updating funeral wishes

Codicils are intended for when minor changes are needed. If you are getting married, going through a divorce, or have a new addition to the family, a completely new will is recommended.

Now that wills are kept electronically, it is straightforward and often more cost-effective to update a will rather than making a codicil.


Writing a new will

If you have been through a major life change and need to update or rewrite your will, our expert will writing solicitors can assist. We can review your current will and let you know what needs changing.

The expert solicitors at PHR Solicitors can guide you through the process of creating a new will or updating an existing one. Get in touch today by calling 0151 666 9090 or completing the quick enquiry form on this page to arrange a call back at your convenience.

Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts

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