A Will is a legal document that details how you want to distribute your assets upon your death and can also deal with the future care of any minor children. Your Will serves as an instruction or ‘expression of your wishes’, but this is no guarantee as it can be overruled by the court. Writing a Will usually involves estate planning and the employment of legal services but some people choose a DIY Will instead. Using a Will to express your wishes can save time and may negate any potential disputes between your heirs after you are gone.
In this article, we will be answering the question, “How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Will UK?”. There are 2 main reasons for changing your Will once it has been executed; you may have clerical changes (i.e. addresses/names) or you may wish to change your actual beneficiaries or bequests. We will be covering how to make each type of change and the costs involved.
A. Clerical Changes.
Clerical changes are minor changes including changes in name, spelling, or address changes.
1. Name change of person named in your Will: This is most common when a person you have mentioned in your Will gets married/divorced. However, there is no fixed requirement to update names. All you need to ensure is that it remains clear to whom you are referring to in your Will.
2. Correction of a misspelt name: It is not uncommon to misspell the name of a person in your Will. In some cases, you may even have used a nickname. If the misspelt name belongs to a beneficiary, corrections or changes are not critical if your instructions are still clear to your Executor.
However, if the spelling error significantly obscures your intentions or creates ambiguities, a correction will indeed be necessary. The names/addresses of each Executor should always be as accurate and as up to date as possible.
3. Changing the address of a beneficiary to your Will: It is sensible to include an address for each beneficiary in your Will as this will make it easier to identify that person and can provide a contacting address to locate a beneficiary who may not be known to your Executors. There is no fixed requirement to update the addresses within your Will but a regular review to update them periodically would assist your Executors.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Clerical Error in Your Will UK?
Typically, a clerical error should not cost anything to correct. This is because this type of error does not make a material change to the Will so should not require a separate document. All you need do is write in the updated information, then affix your initials and signature in the presence of 2 witnesses. Only after this will your corrections and changes become legally valid.
B. Changing a Person or Bequest in Your Will.
These kinds of changes include creating a new beneficiary or changing an appointee.
1. Creating a new beneficiary to your Will: Adding a new beneficiary or bequest to your Will constitutes a more significant change. If you have a handwritten Will, you should avoid writing out by hand any new bequests directly onto it.
We will discuss the best ways to make irrefutable changes when you wish to add a new beneficiary or bequest to your Will later in this text.
2. Changing an appointee in your Will: An appointee is an individual that you appoint with the responsibility of ensuring that your wishes under your Will are carried out. The 3 most common appointees often included in Wills are an Executor, a pet caregiver, and a guardian for minors.
Again, it is advisable not to hand-write any changes you wish to make to an appointee in your Will. This may only cause minor conflicts in the case of a pet caregiver or a guardian. But for an Executor, any handwritten changes could cause issues with the future application to the probate court.
How to formally change a person or bequest in your Will.
Common examples of when you may want to change a person or bequest include:
- You have a new spouse or civil partner (this automatically cancels any previous Will you have in place);
- You acquire more money or property;
- You wish to change who inherits your estate or parts of it;
- You want to add a specific gift to someone you love;
- An existing appointee/beneficiary passes away;
- Inheritance tax legislation or the law governing wills changes; and so on.
In any of these events, you have 2 options available to you;-
1. Adding a Codicil.
A codicil is a legal document that allows you to formally amend your existing Will. A codicil only amends a specific part of your Will and leaves the rest of it intact. Codicils may be separate from your Will itself but must always be stored alongside it. This will help to ensure that your Executors are aware of any changes you have made when sorting out your estate.You can either write a codicil yourself or have a solicitor or other legal professional write it for you.
2. A new Will.
If you have numerous material changes to make, then making a new Will is more sensible. Of course, the new Will must also be signed and witnessed by 2 others just like the original document. Your new Will replaces your old Will providing it is executed properly.
How Much Does It Cost to Formally Change Your Will in the UK?
The costs of formally changing your Will depend on the complexity of the changes you wish to make (as we have explained above). It will also largely depend on how your Will was written. Generally, there are 3 methods in use today.
1. A Handwritten Will.
A holographic Will is entirely handwritten, signed and witnessed by the testator. This kind of Will is legally valid in the UK, England and Wales.
The cost to formally change a handwritten Will is nothing – free of charge. However, if a Will is not executed properly or contains ambiguities it may cause issues or disputes after your death, which may end up costing your family members, loved ones, and other beneficiaries more than expected. Handwritten Wills frequently result in disputes, in fact figures from the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) suggest that poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills are to blame for a prolonged probate ordeal for 38,000 families a year.
2. A Will written by your Solicitor.
If you have your Will written with a solicitor, most solicitors will recommend a new Will if you wish to make numerous changes. A solicitor will charge between £150-250 to prepare a new straightforward Will. For more complex cases the costs are between £250-500. A new Will automatically nullifies any previous Wills or codicils.
3. A Will written by an online Will writing service.
Most online Will writing online services allow you to make any changes to your will whenever you would like; you just need to maintain an account with them. Then, all you need is to login to your online service and change the part of the will you would like to update. A new document is created which you then download and sign (witnessed as before with 2 independent adults). Of course, there is no guarantee these online businesses will exist forever so be careful you don't lose your information further down the line!
The cost of updating your Will with the online will writing services is usually free and most accounts will end up costing less than £50.