OK, so you have a Will? Great. When was the last time you thought about it or checked whether it still expresses your wishes accurately?
If the answer is fairly recently, well done. We advise all clients to regularly review their Will. It is far too easy for clients to put a Will in place and completely forget about it. By the time it comes for the Will to be used your wishes may have changed, your circumstances may have changed and even the law may have changed! Wills are not written in tablets of stone and should never be treated as such.
So, you’ve decided that you need to make a change to your Will. The obvious option is to put a brand-new Will in place to replace the existing one. But, are the any other options or alternatives to putting a new Will in place? This is when we may consider using a Codicil.
A Codicil is typically a one-page document used to make minor changes to an existing Will. Once completed, a Codicil is then placed alongside the Will it refers to so that the Will and Codicil can essentially be read together as one document. The advantages of using a Codicil is that it may be less expensive, simpler to implement and potentially quicker to put in place than a new Will. But that does not mean that we would always recommend it.
In practice, a Codicil would only be appropriate for very small changes to your Will. When we say ‘small’, the change may be significant in terms of your Will, such as new executors but it is ‘small’ in terms of the physical amendment to the wording of the original Will. You can make multiple Codicils to a Will but, again, this is not generally advisable. The main disadvantage of using a Codicil is that it can lead to confusion for your executors. It is important to restrict any dubiety from testamentary writings so that your wishes can be followed as you would have wanted them to be. Additionally, you have to be aware that anyone reading the Will and Codicil will be aware of the changes that you have made. This may be important to consider if you are deciding to remove a legacy or leave less to someone who was originally set to inherit more from your Estate.
There are significant advantages to putting in place a new Will rather than using a Codicil. For starters, the final product is more straightforward to read. Also, putting in place a new Will allows us to take a full account of your current circumstances and tailor make a Will that is appropriate for you. There may be particular family circumstances, Inheritance Tax planning or other considerations that we can advise you on and draft to accommodate. Once a new Will is put in place, your previous Will can be destroyed and so your beneficiaries and executors may never know of the changes which have been made.
In any case, when considering making changes to your Will, please get in touch and we can advise you as to whether a Will or Codicil would be more appropriate in the circumstances.
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