When Should You Update Your Will?
As most of us know, wills are legal documents that let you decide what happens to your money, property, and possessions after death. Under UK law, wills are rather easy to compose and execute. For your will to be legally valid you must specifically:
- Be 18 or over
- Make it voluntarily
- Be of sound mind
- Make it in writing
- Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18
- Have it signed by your two witnesses, in your presence
In addition to the conditions mentioned above, you can’t leave your witnesses (nor their married partners) anything in your will.
First things first: How to write a valid will
Unlike the movies, real-life wills must follow certain conditions to be considered legal. In your will, you’re obliged to clarify on this series of items:
- Who you want to benefit from your will
- Who should look after any children under 18 (given the case)
- Who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your ‘executor’)
- What happens if the people you want to benefit die before you
In addition, it is highly advised to seek legal counsel when particular circumstances require it, for example when you share a property with someone who isn’t legally bound to you (e.g. by marriage or partnership), when your permanent home is outside the UK, or when you have property overseas.
Updating the will
Reasons to update a will are as diverse as life. The need for changes isn’t uncommon – people marry, divorce, have children, take unexpected paths in life, and that’s fine. In any case, common sense dictates that wills should be reviewed after any major change in life, or every five years. Sometimes life doesn’t change too much, but the mind does.
In addition, you must know that making changes is not just crossing out an order and writing a new one. After the document has been signed and witnessed, the only way to change it is by making an official alteration called a codicil. To update, you must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will. Luckily, this can be made countless times, or as personal needs dictate.
Keep in mind that if major changes are needed, there’s the alternative of making a new will. If that’s the case, your new will should explain that it officially cancels all previous wills and codicils. To finish the procedure, you should destroy your old will by burning it or tearing it up.
As you may have noticed, making a will isn’t exactly the picture we get from the books and movies, though it can be catalogued as a fairly simple legal procedure. Of course, particular circumstances will definitely require legal assistance – a minor challenge for those who are adamant in having the last word over their estate.