Most people assume they’ve done all the hard work once they have formalised their Will.
But Wills should be considered a living document, meaning they grow and evolve alongside you as your life changes.
In this guide, Safewill explains why it’s important to update your Will and how to go about doing it.
There are two different methods to changing your Will, each choice offering different benefits or disadvantages. But certain life events may also trigger the revocation of your Will, meaning it becomes void and you may need to write a new one.
The easiest way to update a Will is by creating a Codicil - a separate legal document which can be used to make minor changes or additions. This method should be used to create extra instructions that will still work within your existing Will without confusing or canceling other parts of it.
Like a Will a Codicil must be signed by the Will maker as well as two witnesses. This method can be used to change or add an Executor, make a specific gift or bequest or clarify a point in your original Will, for example, if a Beneficiary changes their name after marriage.
Significant relationship changes may require you to create an entirely new Will. This could involve becoming part of a blended family and welcoming a new step child into the mix, or even if your son or daughter divorces and you would like to remove their former spouse from the Will. Writing a new Will automatically cancels the original document.
A Will can be revoked in a number of different ways, and can sometimes occur as a result of certain life events. One of the simplest ways to do this is by destroying the physical document - either by tearing it up, burning it or or directing someone else to destroy it. This can also be done by a written declaration of your intention to revoke the document. Some of the triggers which may result in the revocation of a Will are: the creation of a new Will, marriage or divorce.
There is no hard or fast rule about how regularly you should update a WIll because it all comes down to personal circumstances. A figure you might see floating around recommends updating your Will every 3-5 years. This is a good basis, but there are also a series of triggers you should be aware of which should prompt you to update your Will.
Your relationship status changes through marriage, divorce or a de facto relationship;
Your spouse dies;
Your Executor or Beneficiaries die or become incapacitated;
You have a new child or grandchild;
You buy or sell property or other significant assets;
You come into an inheritance;
Updating a Will can be done without engaging a lawyer. If you are planning to forge ahead on your own you will need to decide if you plan to write a codicil or intend to write an entirely new Will.
If you opt for a Codicil you will need to follow a certain format, making sure you include certain features to ensure the document is considered valid before the courts. These are:
Details of the person making the Codicil;
Details of the original Will the Codicil refers to (including its date);
The date the Codicil was written;
Specific reference to the clause(s) in the Will being changed;
Confirmation that the other clauses of the Will remain effective’
An “attestation clause” explaining that the Will was made by the Testator and has been properly witnessed.
If you want to write a new Will without a lawyer you can go with any of the following options:
paper based DIY Will kits from the newsagency or post office
state or territory Public Trustee offices that provide a DIY or semi-DIY Will service
online Will platforms like Safewill that help you to create, update and store a Will easily and affordably online.