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When do I need to update my Will?

You may think that once you have made a Will that your affairs are in order, and you can forget about it.  To some extent that is true, for a period of time, but as your life changes, your Will should be updated to reflect these changes.

Below, Jason Crocker, Solicitor in our Private Client team at Penderlaw Solicitors explores this topic and also answers some FAQs on the subject.

The Gov.uk website recommends that Wills are updated every five years and also after any major changes in your life. The term ‘Major life changes’ is rather a vague definition, so here are some examples of what we would consider those major changes to be, and how they can affect your Will and distribution of your Estate.

Marriage / Re-marriage

One of the most obvious life changes would probably be marriage.  Any existing Will is revoked (cancelled) upon marriage, unless it makes specific reference to your forthcoming marriage. A Will made mentioning an intended marriage is referred to legally as making a Will ‘in contemplation of marriage’.


If you get divorced, you should also make a new Will. Whilst a divorce won’t invalidate your Will in the same way as marriage, it does mean that the terms of your Will are affected.  In effect, once you are divorced, as far as inheritance is concerned, the law treats your partner as if they have died before you.  This can therefore cause complications should your Will not specify what is to happen if your partner no longer features in your Will. You may also wish to update your Will during the process of your divorce, to ensure assets are not passed to your ex-spouse in the meantime.

Having children / grandchildren

Again, probably one of the more obvious life changes! However, it is important to update your Will when you have grandchildren as well as children to ensure that they are not excluded because they were not born at the time the original Will was made.  The addition of step-children to the family would also fall into this category and are especially important to consider as they are not recognised by the law, so unlike biological grandchildren or adopted children, would not necessarily automatically inherit anything, unless you specify that this is your wish in your Will.

Moving house

It is important that you update your Will if you move house. The main reason to do this is that a Will must have an up-to-date address on it, or it could cause some complications moving forward, especially if you made a specific gift of the property or it falls within the remit of a life interest trust*.  If you own your property, your Will should detail what is to happen to the property when you die. This change may be very straightforward and not necessarily require a formal document.

If the Executor or someone named in the Will dies

Perhaps another obvious one but something to keep track of nonetheless.  The issue could be that an Executor becomes incapacitated, mentally or physically, and can no longer perform their role or a beneficiary of your Will dies. A new Will would need to be drawn up appointing a new Executor or making alternative arrangements. A well drafted Will would consider such events at the time of making it, but even still, life events can supersede assumptions!

Entering a new relationship where stepchildren are involved

If you begin a new relationship and your new partner has children from a previous relationship, you should update your Will to be clear whether you wish your Estate to include those stepchildren or exclude them from inheriting. Not doing so could potentially cause confusion and upset in the future.

When to update a Will – FAQs

I’m separated from my spouse but not divorced.  Can I update my Will to exclude them?

The law in England and Wales provides for ‘testamentary freedom’.  This means that you are legally entitled to leave your Estate to anyone you want to.  However, if you are still married, your spouse could make a claim against your Estate when you die.  I would always recommend that you seek legal advice specific to your situation; however, generically speaking, you may wish to include a letter with your Will explaining why you have not included your spouse. Or include a clause in your Will referring to your reason. The letter or clause will help the court to decide if they should consider any claim made against your Estate, should your separated partner make a claim.

Will my children still inherit my entire Estate if I gain stepchildren in a new relationship?

As mentioned earlier in this blog, stepchildren do not have any legal status but a claim could arise from them if they were dependent upon you at or before the time of your death. If you want to protect your own children’s inheritance, it is worth updating your Will to be specific and bring clarity to your wishes regarding your children’s inheritance.

Do children who are adopted have the same rights to inheritance?

Adopted children have exactly the same rights as biological children when it comes to inheritance from their adopted parents.

Is it cheaper to make a Codicil for small amendments to my Will?

Codicils used to be more commonly used years ago but this was primarily because it was far more labour intensive to create a new document from scratch before the age of computers.  These days, it is more common to create a clean document.  You can take a look at our prices for Wills to find out more.

I have recently inherited from my own parent’s Estate, should I update my Will to reflect this?

I would always recommend that you consider reviewing your Will following receipt of an inheritance. You may find it an ideal time to consider any inheritance tax consequences that may arise and what options you have in dealing with your new assets. If your inheritance includes valuable physical assets such as property, jewellery, art or vehicles, it would be worth including them in your own Will and worth being specific about who you wish to receive them when you die, especially if they hold sentimental value.

*A life interest trust of property occurs where an asset  (usually a house) is left into trust for a person (typically a surviving spouse ) to live in or enjoy the income during their lifetime. When they die, the property in the trust passes to the beneficiaries in the Will. Such is a common arrangement with second marriages to ensure the asset owned by the testator passes to their offspring but ensures the surviving spouse is supported during their life.

Speak to Penderlaw about Updating Your Will Today

If you would like to speak to us about updating your Will, or have any questions around this, we would be delighted to hear from you. Visit our contact page, email us or give us a call on 01872 241408 and we will be happy to help.