Can I amend my will after it has been signed?

Any will can be amended after it has been signed, but it is important that this is done in the right way.   It might be that a last minute change is made to a will before a person passes away, or the testator might write a quick letter setting out an additional asset which should be added or a beneficiary who should be considered.  This can have untold consequences when it comes to administering the estate and considering whether the original will is still valid.

A will, and any alterations made to the will, must be made in accordance with the Wills Act 1837.  Section 21 of the Act requires an alteration to be initialled by the testator and two witnesses (for example, in the margin or on some other point of the will close to the alteration).  If a testator has simply crossed out a legacy of “£5,000” and replaced it with “£1,000”, the amendment will be ignored (and the beneficiary will receive  £5,000) unless it has been properly signed and witnessed.  If a client wishes to make a number of amendments, we would either recommend that they make a new will or set out the amendments clearly in a codicil, which is a separate document to be read in conjunction with your will.

Of course, a codicil also needs to be signed in accordance with the Wills Act 1837, and it should be clearly expressed that it is a codicil and that it is not intended to revoke your earlier will.  Problems do arise where letters are drafted on somebody’s death bed and it is not clear whether the letter should be construed to revoke the earlier will (in which case a partial intestacy could arise) or whether it is simply to be read as a codicil and the terms of the will should still stand.

A point to note: your witnesses should never be a beneficiary under your will.

If you are unsure about whether  making an amendment to your will is going to be effective, then please do seek legal advice.  If you have any questions, Laura Sentkovsky in our private client team is always happy to assist or 0207 703 5034.