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Codicil Vs New Will: What’s the best option?

Our People - Chryso Loizides
12 June, 2023

In the UK, updating your will is an important aspect of estate planning. As circumstances change, such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, your will needs to reflect your current wishes.

You cannot amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed. There are only two ways to update your will: by creating a new will or by adding a codicil. A codicil is an official alteration which must be witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between updating your will and adding a codicil and which option may be best for you.

Making a new Will

You can make a new will at any time and for any reason, as long as you have the legal capacity to do so. When creating a new will, you should ensure that it is signed, dated and witnessed correctly. You should also ensure that it revokes any previous wills you have made.

What are the advantages of Updating Your Will?

  • Provides a clean slate: Updating your will provides a clean slate, ensuring that your wishes are clear and up-to-date. This includes a review of your financial and personal circumstances and an expert’s advice as to whether any further changes need to be made to your will of which you may not have been aware.
  • Easier to understand: A new will can be easier to understand than a will with multiple codicils, making it less likely that your wishes will be misinterpreted.
  • Reduces the risk of legal disputes: A new will can help reduce the risk of legal disputes between beneficiaries by ensuring that your wishes are clear and up-to-date.
  • Demonstrates testamentary capacity: a solicitor taking your instructions to make a new will can also demonstrate the tests for testamentary capacity have been satisfied, which reduces the risk of your will being validly contested.

What are the disadvantages of Updating Your Will?

  • Cost and time: Making a new will can sometimes be more expensive and take slightly longer than adding a codicil.

Adding a Codicil

Adding a codicil involves adding an amendment to your existing will. A codicil can be used to make small changes to your will, such as changing a beneficiary or adding an asset.

What are the advantages of Adding a Codicil?

  • Cost and time: Adding a codicil is sometimes less expensive and slightly quicker than creating a new will.
  • Convenience: You can add more than one codicil to a will.

What are the disadvantages of Adding a Codicil?

  • It is not a review of your situation: a review of your current situation will not be carried out when making a codicil, as with making a new will, and so you will not receive advice as to whether there are any changes that need to be made to your will, for example because of changes in legislation or the inheritance tax rules.
  • A codicil can invalidate your will, or parts of it: if your amendments in the codicil do not follow the proper rules of construction carefully, the codicil may be invalid, or worse it could unintendedly revoke parts of your will and even the will entirely.
  • Can be confusing: spreading your testamentary wishes over multiple documents can be confusing to your executors or beneficiaries, making it more likely that your wishes will be misinterpreted or not followed.
  • Can go missing: having more than one document with your wishes increases the likelihood of them being mislaid or going missing. If the codicil is lost, the intended amendments will not take place, which could result in claims against the estate or against the executors personally.
  • Can increase the risk of legal disputes: if a codicil is unclear or ambiguous, or is inconsistent with parts of your will, it can produce legal disputes between beneficiaries.

Should you make a new Will or a Codicil?

The complications that come with making a codicil are clear. In addition, people rarely review their wills often enough, and preparing a new will is an excellent opportunity to do so.

Therefore, in the immense majority of cases it is advisable for you to make a new will instead of a codicil, which will usually only come at a slightly higher cost.

Making a new will at a slightly higher cost avoids the potential disasters that can result from making a codicil, which might end up costing your estate far more in the long run.

For more information about updating your will, please contact one of our Wills Solicitors for a free consultation on 020 8492 2290 or email us at sols@gnlaw.co.uk.

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