Inevitably, our plans for the future evolve over time. Families expand and sadly shrink, assets change, and the needs of our dependants change. Reviewing your will should be an integral part of planning for the future, and meeting your changing priorities.
In addition to your personal plans, there are also a number of events outside your control that may affect your will. Our When should I review my will? page lists some of the events that may mean it is a good idea to review your will, as well as our How do I review my will? page that will provide a quick guide of what to do if you do decide to update your will.
If your changed decision, or changing circumstances mean that it’s time to update your will, there are a number of different ways to go about it. Which one is best will depend on how extensively you want to change your will. Our Changing a will page evaluates the benefits and disadvantages of several different methods, ranging from small handwritten notes to a complete re-write of your will.
One common method of changing your will is to use a codicil. A codicil is a formal way of making straightforward changes to your will, such as changing executors or the recipient of a gift. A codicil must be made with the same formalities as a will, but may be more appropriate than making a new will if the changes are relatively light. Find our more on our page What is a codicil?
For the sake of simplicity, it may sometimes be necessary to Revoke a will and start again. A will can be revoked in a number of ways (not all of them voluntary), which will be more or less applicable depending on why it is revoked, and what you intend to replace it with. With all the possibilities, the most important thing to is make your decision clear to your executors and anyone expecting to benefit from the will, as this can help to simplify their task after your death.
While the safest option is to formally amend your will, it is also possible to make a Donatio mortis causa – Gift in contemplation of death. Making gifts in this way – sometimes referred to as deathbed gifts – can cause confusion or conflict after your death, and they are best avoided.
It’s a good idea to review your will, regularly, to keep things clear and avoid the pitfalls.
(If a term is in bold, that means it's in our Glossary.)
Review your will regularly, and after significant changes in your life
When reviewing a will you should ask yourself several questions
Amend your will by making a new one or using a codicil. Handwritten changes aren’t recommended.
Use a codicil to make simple changes to your will
You can choose to revoke a will at any time, and it is automatically revoked by marriage or a civil partnership
It is possible to give a gift in contemplation of death, but it may cause confusion