When preparing Wills, we aim to make them applicable to current circumstances, and flexible enough to endure certain life changes. Nevertheless, some events may impact the validity of Wills, and any number of factors can cause someone to revisit their wishes. For these reasons it is recommended that people review their Wills every three to five years and evaluate whether they want to update them in any way. When it comes to implementing changes to a Will, there are two options:
- Draft a Codicil, which keeps the existing Will intact but modifies it in specific ways (e.g. “delete paragraph 8 and replace it with the following…”); or,
- Revoke the existing Will by executing a new one to replace it.
Codicils may be useful in making simple changes to a Will, for example:
- replacing an executor;
- replacing a guardian;
- adding a specific bequest;
- changing the amount or timing of a specific bequest.
However, it is important to remember that both the original provision and the new provision will be seen by the applicable executors and beneficiaries following your death. So, if you would prefer not to advertise that you replaced a certain relative with another one as executor, or reduced the size of a bequest you left to a beneficiary, a Codicil will not fit the bill.
Preparing a new Will is almost always a better solution than a Codicil as it reduces the potential for confusion or conflict to arise as a result of certain modifications becoming known to others.
In certain circumstances, making a new Will is crucial. For example:
- After a marriage, which automatically revokes an existing Will (unless the Will has been explicitly drafted in contemplation of such marriage);
- After a separation, which has no effect on an existing Will and would therefore continue to benefit a spouse from whom one has separated;
- After a divorce, which revokes the provisions of an existing Will involving the ex-spouse, but leaves the remaining provisions as is, which may no longer suit the family circumstances;
- After having children, if an existing Will does not contemplate any; and
- After executing any contract that imposes obligations on an estate that are inconsistent with the provisions of an existing Will.
Anyone may revise or revoke their Will at any time and for any reason, provided they have the requisite mental capacity to do so. However, it is important that proper form and process are followed to ensure such changes are validly made.
At Mills & Mills LLP, our estate lawyers can assist you in making changes and updates to your Wills. We strive to help our clients build comprehensive estate plans to suit their specific needs. To learn more about how we may be able to assist you please reach out to us online or by telephone at (416) 863-0125.