There is no legal requirement to update your Will at any particular time, but there are certain life events and milestones at which you should seriously consider reviewing and updating your Will to ensure your estate is distributed as you would want it to be.
At what times in my life should I update my Will?
If you marry, divorce, enter into a de facto relationship, or have children you should review and update your Will accordingly. This is to ensure that your estate does not end up in the hands of the wrong person.
For people who have separated or divorced from their former partner, it is important to note the following:
- If you separate from your spouse but do not legally divorce AND you fail to change your Will, your former spouse may continue to be a beneficiary of your estate;
- If you separate from your spouse and you do get divorced, but you fail to change your Will, all gifts formerly appointed to your ex will be revoked; and
- If you separate from your de facto partner, you must update your Will, or, similarly to example 1, your former partner may continue to be a beneficiary of your estate.
You should also update your estate if your asset pool changes significantly (especially if a gift no longer exists), if you become estranged from one of your children, if a beneficiary or your chosen executor dies, or any other major life-changing event takes place that may affect the way you would want your estate to be distributed.
If I had to update my Will periodically, how often should I do it?
It is recommended that you review your Will at least every three years and update if necessary. This becomes increasingly important the older you get. Updating an existing Will can be a very simple task and your solicitor will usually accept instructions over the phone so that you do not have to attend their offices except for when you make a final review of the document and sign it.
What are the consequences of dying with an out-of-date Will?
In some circumstances, dying without an up-to-date Will can be almost as bad as dying intestate (without any will). If the wrong people are listed as beneficiaries, those who should benefit from the Will (such as a spouse or children) may need to turn to the court in order for the estate to be distributed fairly.
Conversely, if you have an up-to-date Will in place, you can have control over the distribution of your estate and be sure that there are no unintended consequences.
Can I update my Will myself by hand?
You may update your Will by hand, however, you should know that it bears the risk of being scrutinised and causing conflict amongst those you leave behind because it can often be difficult to ascertain exactly who made the amendment when it was made, and under what circumstances. It would be impossible to determine if the circumstances were in fact legal or if the person making the Will had capacity at the time of making the amendment. It is always safest to have a solicitor prepare or amend your Will for you to ensure it complies with the relevant laws.
Alternatively, you may wish to modify your Will with a codicil.
What is a Codicil?
A codicil is a document separate from a Will that can modify or alter all or part of the Will. Typically, a codicil will only be used to make minor changes to a Will. For example, a codicil may be used to delete a provision or appoint a new executor.
If you intend on making significant changes to your Will, it would be prudent to make an entirely new one so that your current wishes are reflected in the document.
If you would like to update your Will or draft a completely new one, please contact one of our experienced Wills and Estates lawyers on (07) 4052 0761.