What are the options for changing a will in NSW?

Date: Aug 28, 2015

Writing a will is one of the most important steps in the estate planning process, but people also have to update the document regularly to ensure it continues to express their final wishes.

Big life events can have a dramatic effect on who a testator may want to include in their will as a beneficiary. Deaths, births, estrangements and a range of other factors may play a part in the decision to amend a will.

However, it's important to discuss any changes with a qualified wills and estates lawyer to ensure the updated document remains in line with the necessary stipulations in the Succession Act 2006 (NSW).

Here are some of the options you have at your disposal when you want to update, amend or revoke an existing will.

Produce a new will

One of the best ways to update a will is simply to write a new one. There are several occasions when amending a will is particularly important, including getting married or divorced, having children or experiencing a significant change in your financial circumstances.

People should also consider revisiting their estate planning if an executor or beneficiary dies. Anyone providing money to charity may also want to check regularly whether the organisation is still running under the same name - or at all.

Add a codicil

A codicil is an amending document designed to outline small changes to an existing will. The codicil must still follow the same legal stipulations required of an official will.

As such, they must be produced in writing and witnessed by two people to reduce the chances of an inheritance dispute over validity. Nevertheless, less formal codicils have been allowed in the past, with a recent case heard in the NSW Supreme Court resulting in a DVD recording being accepted.

Revoke a will

Most people are encouraged to write a new will if they want to invalidate an existing one. However, there are some instances where a will may be revoked without the testator realising. For example, a marriage automatically revokes any previous wills the spouses may have unless they wrote the documents to specifically account for their nuptials. 

Divorces also cancel parts of a will. Specifically, any clauses relating to gifts between the two former spouses are withdrawn, as are areas of the will appointing an ex-wife or ex-husband as an executor.

If you would like additional information on your estate planning procedures, please contact Craddock Murray Neumann to learn more.