A Will should be a living document that reflects changes in your life as they happen – if you fail to update it periodically, you risk not having your estate distributed in the way you’d like.
You can’t just make changes at any time, however. There is a specific process you have to follow in order to change provision and estate distribution terms in your Will. If you don’t follow the right legal steps, any amendments you make will ultimately be invalid.
How do I change provisions set in my Will?
Altering your Will isn’t as easy as crossing old passages out and writing new ones. When you make changes to the document, any additions or removal of information need to be signed by the Will-writer in order to be legally valid. Without this signature, none of the new material plays into the estate distribution set in the old Will.
Another option for changing provisions is to add a codicil. This amends, adds or removes statements made in the original Will. This document is separate from your original testament but should be attached to it, clearly stating the provisions you want to amend. It needs to be drafted in the same way you would a Will by signing it and having it witnessed by two parties.
The third option for changing your estate distribution terms is to write a completely new Will. When doing so, ensure you copy the parts of your old Will to ensure your provisions are handled correctly. You should clearly state this new draft was made to amend the old document, and legally cancel then destroy the original copy to ensure there is no confusion about your final wishes.
Do all changes require a witness?
In NSW, any changes to the provisions set out in your Will have to be witnessed by at least two other parties. This can be anyone, from an expert solicitor to a friend or colleague.
However, there are numerous restrictions around named beneficiaries in your Will acting as witnesses to amendments. This is to ensure no undue influence has taken place. Beneficiaries can only act as a witness if there are at least two others present who aren’t beneficiaries. Additionally, the court has to be satisfied that the maker knew and approved of any estate provision terms that would favour the beneficiary witness.
Ready to make the right changes to your Will?
Want to make some changes to your Will to ensure your estate is distributed how you wish? Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will & Estate Distribution Lawyers for help!