Understanding How To Update A Will

We understand that the vast majority of people have more or less no experience of dealing with legal issues. Aside from the formalities you have to go through when buying a house or signing a contract, most people are lucky enough not to have to think about the kind of issues that the team at Higgins Miller deal with every day. That’s why coping with something like a divorce, adoption or a children dispute can be so stressful, and why we offer a complete package of legal expertise and emotional support. It’s also why, in a less extreme example, people often put off writing their will until it is too late. Alternatively, many people write a will and then imagine the job is done for ever, but a will which is more than a few years old can quickly become out of date. That’s why we’re keen to persuade people to review their will on a regular basis and also to explain exactly how to update a will. 

Before thinking about how to update a will you need to think about whether your will needs changing in the first place. The process behind how to update a will is in place as recognition of the fact that people’s lives and circumstances can change in a way which renders the original will not fit for purpose. This is particularly true if you’ve listened to the advice of experts and written a will at a relatively early age, something which makes the question of how to update a will much more likely to arise. 

Having written a will detailing what you would like to happen to your estate following your death, you need to review the document every few years, to ensure that it still says what you want it to say. Items in the will such as property, for example, may have increased in value many times over since the will was written, and this could alter your approach to choosing a beneficiary or beneficiaries. There are other more concrete changes, however, that will definitely require your will to be reviewed and, in many cases, for you to know how to update a will. 

If someone named as a beneficiary or executor in your will dies then you definitely need to know how to update a will. The parts of your estate which you left to the deceased will become part of the wider estate to be divided between the other beneficiaries, and you may well have other plans. You might, for example, have left a specific item of jewellery to a particular family member. If they die before the will comes into force then the jewellery in question will simply become part of the wider estate and probably be sold, with the proceeds divided. If you know how to update a will, on the other hand, you could ensure that the jewellery was instead left to someone else you know will value and look after it. This is the key benefit of knowing how to update a will – it offers peace of mind that you can carry on caring for your loved ones to a degree when you’re no longer here, by sharing your estate exactly how you want to. 

Other changes which should automatically lead to a review of your will include the birth of any children or grandchildren whom you might want to add as individual beneficiaries. This is particularly true in an age in which people are far more likely to divorce and remarry, and have children as the result of more than one relationship. If you don’t know why or how to update a will you could find yourself in a position in which your children don’t get to receive everything you’d have chosen to leave to them. This is particularly true of you get divorced and then remarry. While the divorce doesn’t impact the original will, remarrying revokes it as a whole, since the bulk of your estate will now automatically go to your spouse or civil partner. If you don’t write a new will upon remarrying then, with the original will having been revoked, you will die ‘intestate’, a legal term which means that your estate will be divided along the lines of strict rules; if you were married with children – whether from a first of subsequent marriage – the surviving spouse will receive the first £250,000 of the estate and all of your personal items, with the rest of the estate being divided equally between the spouse and your children. All children will get an equal share, and any under the age of 18 will have the amount in question held in trust for them. If a second or even third marriage has taken place it’s not difficult to envisage a scenario in which, for example, the family home is left to be shared equally between the surviving spouse and the children from a previous marriage or marriages. A situation such as this is clearly a potential cause of conflict. Similarly, any provisions made for children in an original will cease to apply if you remarry, running the risk, if you don’t know how to update a will, of those children getting nothing from your estate. In circumstances such as this, when the changes in the will would be fairly large, or when the original will has been revoked by circumstances, it would be best to write a new will and destroy the old will completely. 

Much of the time, however, the changes you want to make will me more minor in nature. In cases such as this – if you want to change the executors or add a new beneficiary – you shouldn’t amend the contents of the actual will by writing a note, for example, as this is not how to update a will. Instead, you need to create a document called a codicil. A codicil is a document which is signed and witnessed in the same manner as a will – although you don’t need to use the same witnesses – and enables you to make changes without rewriting the entire document.  A codicil of this kind can be used to make changes of any size, from altering a few words of the original will to adding or amending whole sections of the document. The more codicils that are added, however, the more complex estate management might become following your death, so you should think about whether your will has reached the point at which it needs to be rewritten completely rather than simply amended. You should also remember that you shouldn’t ask a witness to sign the document if they or their civil partner/spouse benefits from a gift in the codicil. If this happens, the gift will become invalid. 

No matter which approach you take, it’s wise to seek the help and advice of experts like those at Higgins Miller in order to ensure that every aspect of the documents complies with all legal stipulations in order to minimise the risk of the will being challenged, something which will cause a great deal of stress and cost. If you’d like to find out more about how to update a will please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

how to update a will


September 29, 2022