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Changing a Will

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Home / Changing a Will

There may be times when it is necessary to make changes to your Will. This page gives information on why, when and how to change a Will. 

Please note that if you have drafted your Will online with us, you can make as many changes as you need to, at any time for no extra charge.

On this page:

Why change your Will?

It is important to review your Will when a major life event occurs, such as a marriage, a divorce, a separation, the birth of a child, the death of a relative or a change in your financial situation. These events may have an impact both on your wishes for the distribution of your estate and on the validity of your current Will.

Marriage/Civil Partnership

When you marry, any Will that you may have made previously is automatically revoked. The only exception to this is if your Will states that a marriage is about to take place and contains explicit instructions that you intend for the Will to remain valid after marriage.

Since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act in December 2004, members of a Civil Partnership are treated in the same way as married couples. When a civil partnership is registered, any Will that either partner has previously made will be automatically revoked.

In Scotland, this law does not apply, and therefore getting married does not automatically mean that your existing Will is revoked.


If you get divorced or your civil partnership is dissolved, your Will does not become invalid, but many of its provisions would no longer be effective if you pass away before making a new Will. For example, any gift that you had bequeathed in your Will to your former spouse or civil partner would take effect as if they had died on the date your divorce was completed. This usually means the gift falls back into the estate residue for the benefit of the residuary beneficiaries. If your Will states that everything passes to your spouse, then it would be as if you died intestate (leaving no valid Will).

In addition, if in your Will you had appointed your spouse as an executor or trustee, after divorce they would be barred from acting as an executor or trustee after your death. (This law does not apply in Scotland.)

For these reasons, it is always best to make a new Will as soon as possible after your divorce.

Birth of a Child

If you have a child after writing your Will, they will not automatically become a beneficiary even if you have named your other children as beneficiaries. Therefore, in order to ensure that your wishes are carried out, you should update your Will as soon as possible after the birth of a child.

How to change your Will

To change your Will, you cannot simply write changes on an existing Will. Such alterations are assumed to have been made after the Will was executed and so they do not form part of the original legally valid Will.

The only way a Last Will and Testament can be legally changed is by:

If you have made your Will with us, you can change it at anytime by logging into your online account for no additional cost.

New Will or Codicil?

As a rule, if the change you wish to make is quite small or simple you can use a codicil, and if the change is more significant or complex you should make a new Will. If you wish to make several changes, big or small, it is advisable to make a new Will.

The table below gives recommendations on whether to use a codicil or a new Will to make your required changes.

Required Change


New Will?

Changing your main beneficiary
e.g. after a marriage or civil partnership




Creating a Trust
e.g. after the birth of a child




Removing a living beneficiary*
e.g. after a change of heart



Increasing the value of a cash gift
e.g. to reflect inflation since you made your Will




Appointing a different executor
e.g. after the original intended executor dies




Appointing a different trustee
e.g. after the original intended trustee dies




Appointing a different guardian
e.g. after the original intended guardians get divorced




Reallocating a bequest
e.g. after the original intended beneficiary dies




Changing your funeral wishes
e.g. after conversion or after buying a funeral plan




Making more than one or two changes




* If you wish to remove a living beneficiary from your Will, it is advisable to consult a solicitor to ensure that this is done correctly, as this action is one of the major causes of legal disputes.

Changing a Will with a Codicil

A codicil is a supplement to an existing Will that makes some alterations but leaves the rest of the Will intact. It is a legal document that is as legally binding as the original Will.

A codicil must be on a separate sheet of paper to the Will and be signed, dated and witnessed in the same way as the original Will. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original Will.

There is no legal limit on how many codicils may be added to a Will, but they should only be used for very simple and straightforward changes.

There are two different types of codicil that can be added to a Will:

When making a codicil, the same rules apply as for making a Will, that is:

After the codicil is executed, it should be stored with the original Will in a safe place. It is recommended that codicils are numbered, so that executors will know how many documents to consult alongside the Will. Do not attach the codicil(s) to the Will, as attaching anything to your Will document would invalidate it.

It is advisable to let your executor(s) know that you have made a codicil, and tell them where it is stored.

For more information on storing a Will and codicil, see the section on Storing your Will.

Making a New Will

If you need to make a major change to your Will, or make more than one or two minor alterations, it is best to make a new one.

The new Will should begin with a clause stating that it revokes all previous Wills and codicils.

It is also vitally important that all copies of the previous Wills and codicils are destroyed, to avoid any confusion after your death. For more on this see Destroying a previous Will.

When writing a new Will, what you need to do depends on how long ago you wrote your previous Will. If it is only a short time since your previous Will was written, the value of your estate is unlikely to have changed significantly. However, if your previous Will was written five or more years ago, you will need to revalue your estate, and begin the Will writing process from scratch.

Process for Making a New Will

When making a new Will, you will need to consider certain things that may have changed since writing your last Will.

Destroying the previous Will

If you had previously made a Will and have now made a new one it, it is important that the previous Will(s) and codicil(s) are destroyed, so that when the time comes, there will be no confusion as to which Will is the legally valid one.

This is especially important if certain provisions have been made in a previous Will which have since been changed in a newer one. For this reason, the disposal of all old Wills and codicils is essential.

If you have had your solicitor draw up a Will on your behalf, they are likely to have a copy of it. If so, you should ask them to destroy it for you, or better still, give it to you so that you can collect all the copies of your Will and codicils and then destroy them yourself, to make sure there will be no confusion over old copies when you have gone. It is recommended that you destroy your Will yourself, or ensure that it is done in your presence.

To destroy a Will, you must burn it, tear it up or destroy it in a way that makes it obvious that its destruction was intentional. There is a risk that if a copy subsequently reappears or pieces of the Will are reassembled, it might be considered that the destruction was accidental. If it is proven that a Will has been accidentally destroyed, it could be considered legally valid.

Once the old Will is destroyed, the new Will should contain a clause revoking all previous Wills and codicils. Revoking a Will means that the Will is no longer valid in law.

Changing a Will after death

If someone dies with or without a valid Will it is possible to change their Will with regard to distribution of their assets. In some circumstances, it is beneficial for beneficiaries to change a Will for tax purposes after the deceased's death. This can be done through a Deed of Variation, sometimes referred to as a Deed of Family Arrangement. This must take place within two years of the death and can only take place if all the beneficiaries agree to the changes. A Deed of Variation must be done in writing and signed by the beneficiaries agreeing to the changes, and if more tax is payable as a result of the Deed, the executors will also be required to sign the document.

The most common reasons for changing a Will after death are:

The beneficiaries should be certain that they want to redirect their inheritances as once they have done so, they will not be able to get them back. Once a Deed of Variation has been signed, it cannot be altered. A Deed of Variation does not enable the executors or beneficiaries to reduce the assets or money given to anyone under eighteen years of age. Children under the age of eighteen cannot consent to a Deed of Variation but an application can be made to the courts for consent to be obtained on their behalf.

The most common reason for using a Deed of Variation is to avoid a large inheritance tax bill. If someone dies leaving their entire estate to their partner, then when the other spouse dies the family members may be left with a large inheritance tax bill, as the first spouse will have effectively wasted their nil-rate band. A Deed of Variation may also be used if assets are passed to a family member who has inheritance tax problems themselves and wishes to pass on the assets to their children to reduce their estate. By redistributing a person's assets, it is possible to reduce the estate below the nil-rate band so that inheritance tax is not due. Assets can be given to another family member, individual or trust to reduce significantly the value of an estate.

Even though using a Deed of Variation can be very useful, it should not be relied upon for estate planning. Ideally, inheritance tax should be considered when planning the original Will, to ensure the lowest amount will be charged. This can be done through giving certain gifts that are tax-free and taking advantage of inheritance tax exemptions. By planning for inheritance tax carefully and considering the nil-rate band, it is possible to avoid the need for executors to execute a Deed of Variation. Reviewing your Will regularly in relation to the changes in the inheritance tax threshold can eliminate the need for a Deed of Variation.

For a Deed of Variation to be valid and take effect it must involve significant changes to the way the assets are to be distributed. It is not permissible to transfer assets to another person on paper while the original beneficiary continues to benefit from them. Spouses cannot pass on assets to their children that are later passed back to the parent, as a means of avoiding inheritance tax charges. There should be no reciprocity at all when setting up a Deed of Variation.


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