There are different types of change that you may need to make to a Will, and different approaches. You may be surprised when you ask your solicitor or Will writer to make a change, and are quoted £300 or more. This article explains how you can make different types of changes to your Will, and explains the costs involved.
You need to simply change the address of somebody named in the Will
If you need to change the address of somebody named in the Will or even your own address, your Will does not need to be updated. You include the address of a beneficiary for two reasons: firstly you must uniquely identify the person, so that if you say
“I leave £1,000 to my friend Brian”
You may find a lot of Brians coming out of the woodwork. However if you say
“I leave £1,000 to my friend Brian Jones, of 123 Factory Street, Rainham, Essex”
There is only one person who could possibly claim to be this particular Brian.
Furthermore, your Executor then has to make sure that Brian receives his £1,000, so putting the full address in the Will may be useful. If you feel that your Executor may struggle to find the beneficiary, by all means include the address, but your Will is written as an instruction to your Executor. It works equally effectively to store your address book with your Will, or alternatively, your Executor could simply ask family members how to contact Brian Jones.
If you move houses, your Executor moves, or any of your beneficiaries change their address, there is no requirement to update your Will. Just make sure that next time you do update the Will, you update the appropriate addresses.
A person in the Will changes their name
This can happen for people named in a Will who take on a married name. Like the address, as long as it is clear who you are referring to, there is no legal requirement to change your Will. If you refer to your beneficiary as “my daughter Susan Brown” and she takes on the married name of “Susan Green” it is still obvious who this Susan is. Particularly as she was Susan Brown at the time the Will was written.
There may be slight additional administrative steps for probate if your Executor has changed their name, but nothing that cannot be easily resolved.
You have misspelled a person’s name
It can happen – you wrote “Paul MacKartney” and it should have been “McCartney”. Again, if this is a beneficiary, it is not critical, as long as the instruction is clear to your Executor and it is obvious who should be receiving the bequest. In this case, Mr. McCartney would not lose his inheritance just because the name was misspelled. The law requires the Executor to do their best to understand the intentions of the Will. A bequest is never forfeited because of a clerical error.
But this could create a slight issue for the Executor if they are probating the Will and the name is very different. This could in theory also be an issue if you have used a nickname instead of their correct name. Certainly, don’t refer to your Executor as “Spud Jones” when their real name is Neville. You want to give your Executor the minimum amount of friction possible to probate your Will, and this is just inviting a problem.
To summarize, Minor spelling mistakes for a beneficiary’s name are not an issue. However, a significant difference in the Executor’s name should be fixed.
How much does it cost to change a clerical error in your Will?
This type of error in a Will should not cost anything. You can actually manually write on the Will, and then initial that change. You should also have two witnesses initial the change. You are not materially changing a bequest, beneficiary or an appointment, and so you would not need to pay a solicitor to make this type of change.
Changing a person or a bequest in the Will
Creating a new beneficiary in the Will
This is where things start to become more significant. Suppose that you have written your Will and you are completely happy with it. But then you are touched by the work of your local hospital, church or another charity, and you would like to recognise their work in your Will. You would like to add a bequest of £5,000 to that particular charity.
In this case, it is a bad idea to write on the Will, because it is very difficult to establish when that change was made. Although this is a legally acceptable approach to updating the Will (if the change is initialled by yourself and two witnesses), it is wide open to a challenge. Particularly if there is a handwritten insertion of
“and £10,000 to my friend Brian Anderson”
Just imagine if Brian Anderson was the person who was entrusted with the storage and care of the Will. You are simply inviting problems.
Changing an appointee in the Will
There are a few different appointees in your Will: your Executor, your pet caregiver and your guardians for young children. We recommend that you do not handwrite the alteration on your Will when changing any of these.
If the name of your Executor has been manually changed on the Will, the probate courts could reject your Executor’s application for probate.
Manually changing your named pet caregiver may not be an issue unless you feel that this could cause some family conflict. Sometimes a significant amount of money can be involved in this appointment, so it is advisable to make a more formal change to your Will.
When you name a guardian for your young children in your Will, you are providing guidance to the courts. Clearly things can happen between the writing of the Will, and the Will coming into effect, and a change of circumstances may make your selection unqualified. Your chosen guardian also reserves the right to not take on the appointment.
But if there are no changes in circumstances, then the guardian named in your Will would likely be the legal guardian appointed by the courts. Again, we recommend not changing this person with a handwritten annotation on the Will.
How to change a person or a bequest in the Will
There are two correct approaches to changing a person or a bequest in your Will.
You can write a codicil
Codicils were very popular before we had computers and printers. In the days when a Will had to be handwritten, or typed, it was very inconvenient to have to retype the whole document to incorporate one small change. The workaround was to prepare a separate document that made reference to the main document and explained the change. It would say words to the effect of
“In the attached document ‘Last Will and Testament of me, John Smith’ for clause 3 ‘Executor’ replace the name Brian Green, with the name James White of 3, Railway Street, Plymouth, Devon”
The document would then be signed in the presence of two witnesses and then attached to the Will.
Of course, with the technology that we have today, it is just as convenient to prepare a new Will. The signing requirements for a codicil are the same as for a new Will. Codicils can be confusing, particularly, if there is a change to something described in an existing codicil – it can be unclear which parts of the Will are being updated.
We have written in more detail about the problems of codicils in another article.
You can prepare a new Will
In modern times, codicils are rarely the best option. We always recommend preparing a new Will if you are making material changes to your Will that include a change to a beneficiary, bequest or appointee in the Will.
If you use a Will writing service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk, this is very straightforward. You would simply login to your account, click through to the page where you name the Executor, make the change and then print the new version of your Will. The new document must then be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
If you have an active account, there is absolutely no charge for doing this, and the process takes about 5 minutes. You can updated your Will from your armchair at home. Which brings us to the main topic of this article.
How much does it cost to change a Will?
There are generally three approaches to writing your Will, which means that there are also three approaches to changing your Will.
If you have handwritten your Will
Legally, you can write your Will on a piece of paper. If it is entirely handwritten, it is called a holographic Will, and this is legal in the UK. However, it is generally a bad idea. Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul chose this method. She died in 2018 and her assets are all still tied up in legal disputes that are costing millions of pounds.
The cost to make changes to this type of Will, is, errr, nothing. However, the cost to your family and loved ones is incalculable. There will most likely be confusion, disputes, and a lot of money spent on solicitor’s fees.
If you have written your Will with a Solicitor
This is one of the most confusing aspects of making a change to an existing Will. If you return to your solicitor requesting a change, your solicitor will almost always recommend that you prepare a new Will. In fact, they will usually refuse to work with a single clause without reviewing the complete document. As a result, it can seem to be an exorbitant fee. Usually to make a change to a bequest, or beneficiary within a Will, a solicitor will charge about £300 to £500 – the cost of preparing the initial Will.
In fact, many people who come to LegalWills.co.uk do so after experiencing this very thing. They wrote their Will with a solicitor and then realised that it would cost them several hundreds of pounds every time they needed to make a change. It’s also worth keeping in mind that your Will may need to be changed many times throughout your life – whenever anybody named in the Will has a change of circumstances.
For example, if your alternate Executor has been taken ill. If you have written your Will with a solicitor you probably wouldn’t make the effort to set up an appointment to make that minor change to the document. But that leaves your Will less than complete as you do not have a backup Executor. You would have to weigh up the cost and inconvenience of making that change against the risk of having no backup in place.
If you have written your Will with an online Will writing service
This is one of the key advantages to using an online Will writing service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk. We provide a complete review of different online Will writing services elsewhere on this website.
Most online Will writing services allow you to make changes to your Will any time you have an active account. You simply login to your account, navigate to the part of the Will that needs to be updated and change the information. You then download and print a new document to be signed in the presence of witnesses.
The cost for updating your Will with an online Will writing service is usually nothing at all.
What do I do with my existing Will?
If you have previously written your Will with a solicitor, and have been quoted several hundreds of pounds to make an update, you may be considering using an online Will service like ours at LegalWills.co.uk. But it may be awkward to have the discussion with your solicitor asking for them to dispose of your existing Will because you have chosen to use an online Will writing service.
The good news is that you don’t need to have this discussion.
If you prepare a new Will using the service at LegalWills.co.uk it automatically revokes (cancels) any previous Will or codicil. This means that once it is signed by you, dated and the witnesses sign, any previous Will is automatically nullified. Your old Will does nothing at this point.
Ideally, you shouldn’t have a number of different versions of your Will in circulation (this is one of the problems with Aretha Franklin’s affairs, she had a number of Wills tucked away all over her house). But if it isn’t practical to destroy old versions of your Will, it doesn’t matter too much. Only your most recently signed document is your Last Will and Testament. Your previous Wills do nothing.
Update your Will today
If you have an existing Will and you are looking for a fast, affordable way to make a change to this Will, we recommend that you prepare a Will with LegalWills.co.uk. The cost is £39.95 and it takes about 20 minutes.