Amending your will sounds straightforward – after all, you wrote it in the first place. However, will amendments can be risky. By taking a pen to your will you can risk obscuring parts of the text, potentially invalidating the entire will. If done incorrectly, amendments to the face of your will (the paper your will is written on) could be viewed as someone trying to tamper with your will after your death. Will amendments are different to codicils in that they are made on the original will, whereas codicils are separate documents that supplement a will.
Our wills and probate solicitors in Brighton and Hove examine the issue of making amendments to wills and advise of the correct ways of doing so, as well as how to avoid potential pitfalls.
Remember that if you try to amend your will yourself and get it wrong, you can still revoke parts of it, or the entire will, however you may need to have a new will written.
What constitutes amending your will?
Amendments can present themselves in very different ways, the following are such examples:
- Redacting or erasing the text on the will in such a way that it can still be read
- adding new paragraphs and additions to the bottom of the will
- inserting text and manuscript notes between lines within the will
- removing text from the will that can no longer be read
When should I make amendments to the original will?
Our wills and probate solicitors in Brighton and Hove will usually advise against making amendments to the face of your will. This is because amendments can make the will unclear and in certain circumstances invalid. The risk is a lot higher than if you were to simply make a codicil or write a new will.
Amending your will through written alterations can be practical in rare cases, but only if you want to make small changes or fill in blanks before you sign it. This happens from time to time but your wills and probate solicitor will warn and advise you against doing it in case you invalidate the will.
If you have made spelling mistakes or want to change address information, amending your will through a wills and probate solicitor is still best practice to avoid uncertainty.
How to make valid amendments to your will?
If you are determined to make amendments to your will you must ensure you make them using a ballpoint or fountain pen in ink to ensure the amendments are as clear as possible and not considered drafts. If the amendments are not clear enough, this could have an impact on probat and may lead to enquiries by the probate office that concern you and both your witnesses.
Amendments should be executed in the same way as the will. This means that the testator or testatrix (the person who wrote the will) and both witnesses should sign or add their initials in close proximity to the amendment.
If you have a Letter of Wishes that refers to the amendments made, then you will also need to sign Letter of Wishes and re-execute the will in front of your witnesses and have them sign the will again.
If the will is re-executed, then the testator or testatrix should include a sentence explaining that they have re-executed the will after the amendments were made. The amendments should be expressly mentioned in the note as any draft amendments will not take effect.
Amending your will and adding changes using a pencil will usually be treated as still in draft form and may not take effect or be considered as part of your will.
If you are amending your will to add the address information of a beneficiary to identify them, it is safest to have the will drafted again with the beneficiary’s new address so the executors of your will can contact them.
In the past, our wills and probate solicitors have seen cases where the wording of the amendment is unclear in itself which is a ‘worst case scenario’. This is one of the reasons we advise clients to execute a new will rather than making written amendments. A will is incredibly important to those that are left behind who need to fully understand your wishes and perform them in the way you have instructed.
Amending your will before execution
If you have not yet signed your will and have chosen to subsequently add amendments, you should choose to either have the will re-drafted with your amendments, or sign next to the amendments when amending your will. If not, the amendments could be seen to have been added after the will’s execution.
If you do not confirm any amendments, the probate office will ask for evidence of your amendments in a codicil or manuscript note, except where there is evidence within the will that explains the amendments fully.
If you and your witnesses sign the amendments then the probate office will usually accept that you made the amendments before the execution. However, all these extra formalities can be avoided if you simply redraft the will and execute the final version correctly.
Amending your will through codicils or drafting an entirely new will as is a safer and better approach.
If you are considering making written amendments to your will, then we suggest you seek independent legal advice from one of our wills and probate solicitors in Brighton and Hove. You can contact us by clicking here or calling now on (01273) 726951.