How regularly should a Will be updated?

Published 03 May 2018

Author: Garbis Kolokossian

A vital part of producing a Will is ensuring the details remain up-to-date. Once you have written and signed your Will, it legally remains in force until you formally change or revoke it, regardless of how your personal or financial circumstances change.

When would I need to update my Will?
Your Will only expresses your wishes at a particular point in time, so updating it regularly to reflect life changes is vital to ensure your estate is distributed in the way you want it to be.

The only situation which will automatically change the express wishes in your Will is in the case of marriage or divorce. Legally, you have to make provision for your spouse in your Will unless you agree otherwise in a Prenuptial Agreement.

Other situations which may lead you to change your Will include:

  • Starting a de facto relationship.
  • Having children or grandchildren.
  • Your children having married, divorced or started their own families.
  • A change in personal relationship between yourself and a family member or beneficiary that leads to you removing their provision from the Will.
  • Your estate executor becoming unable to perform their duties.
  • A beneficiary named in your Will, such as children, extended family or friends, passing away.
  • Your spouse passing away.
  • A change in employment circumstances, such as losing your job, switching careers or retiring.
  • The value of legacies, assets or gifts changes over time.
  • When you buy or sell assets: this ensures your beneficiaries receive exactly what you intend them to.

How regularly should I update it and how do I do it?
NSW Trustee & Guardian recommends you revise your Will with an expert solicitor once every five years at least - otherwise, it should be updated to reflect changes in your life such as the above.

Once a Will has been signed, alterations are not as easy as crossing out or writing in new sections, and any changes made like this will have no legal effect on the whole document. In order to make changes, you need to consider these options:

  • Alterations can be made in the margin or around the original document if both the will-maker and the witnesses signs next to the change.
  • Adding a codicil - a separate document to your Will which lays out your new wishes - is an acceptable alternative.
  • However, it's often easier just to write an updated Will that nullifies the prior draft.

Before you make any updates to your Will, you should seek the advice of a Will and Estate Planning lawyer to make sure your wishes are followed through exactly how you want. For more information, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

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