Just because you’ve got a will doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all you need to do. If you get married (or enter into a civil partnership) after you’ve drawn up your will it’s invalidated, except in Scotland. And many people like to change their will if they’ve had children or got divorced. But there are other situations when it may make sense to change your will or draw up a new one.
When and how to change your will – marriage and children
If you get married or enter into a civil partnership after you’ve written your will, you should draw up a new one, if you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This is because your existing will becomes invalid after marriage.
SAVVY TIP: The only exception to this is if you drew up your will shortly before you got married or entered a civil partnership and included a clause mentioning that the will should still be valid after your marriage or civil partnership.
If you have children after you drew up your will, it is still valid, but you may want to draw up a new will so you can include your children, or specify that everything goes to your husband/civil partner or partner while they’re alive and then passes onto your children.
Divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership doesn’t invalidate your will but it will mean that gifts you’ve made to your husband, wife or civil partner are invalid. This isn’t the case in Scotland where divorce makes no difference to your will.
SAVVY TIP: In England, Wales and Northern Ireland if you’d made gifts to your ex husband, ex wife or ex civil partner’s family, those would still be valid under the original will. Unless you changed it, you could find your ex’s relatives could benefit from your will.
If you’re getting married for a second time, it’s a good time to draw up a new will. It’s particularly important if the person you’re marrying has children (and you do). If you don’t have a will the laws of intestacy mean that your new husband would inherit everything if you had no children when you died (in England and Wales).
SAVVY TIP: If you leave everything to your new husband or civil partner and have children from a previous marriage or relationship, your children may challenge your new will.
How to change your will
There are two ways to change your will: to add a codicil, which is an extra clause or note to go with your will or to write a new will.
SAVVY TIP: If you want to change the amount you leave someone or change your executor, you could use a codicil. If the change(s) are bigger, you’re probably better off making a new will.
What is a codicil?
A codicil is an addition to your will. It doesn’t change the rest of your will. It’s normally cheaper than drawing up a new will but it still has to be signed and witnessed in the same way that a will does. You should also number your codicil(s) so your executors know how many changes you made to your will.
SAVVY TIP: When you draw up your will you shouldn’t let the witnesses be anyone who stands to benefit from your will (or their husband, wife or civil partner). The same applies to a codicil. Witnesses should not benefit from a codicil and neither should their husband, wife or civil partner.
Drawing up a new will
Unless the changes to your will are minor, it’s normally best to draw up a new one.
SAVVY TIP: You must make sure that your new will says it revokes any previous wills. Tell your executor that you’ve made a new will and where you have left it. It might also be a good idea to tell anyone who’s due to benefit from it who wasn’t included in your previous will.
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