Keeping your will up-to-date
Can I change my will?
Yes. You can cancel (“revoke”), change or add to your will at any time during your lifetime, as long as you are still of sound mind.
How do I change or cancel (“revoke”) my will?
The most common way to change your will is by making a supplementary will (known as a “codicil”). A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a will. A codicil can vary or add to a will and is treated legally as part of the will.
You can also cancel your will, or part of your will, by:
- making a valid new will (it is best to include, in the new will, a clause stating that any previous will is revoked)
- writing a document stating your intention to revoke the will in full or in part and having this document witnessed in the same way as a will
- getting married or entering a civil union (see: “Is my will still valid if I get married?”), or
- destroying the will, or part of it, with the intention of revoking it.
When should I review my will?
It’s a good idea to read your will and review it regularly (common advice is to check it at least every 5 years).
It’s particularly crucial to review your will if:
- you have children, or become a step-parent
- your relationship status changes (see below)
- anyone named in your will dies
- your estate changes significantly (for example, if you buy a house), or
- there are law changes affecting wills.
Is my will still valid if I get married?
If you make a will and then later get married or enter a civil union, your will is automatically cancelled.
You can prevent this by including a statement in your will that you intend to get married or enter a civil union with that person. The wording that is typically used is: “I have made this will in contemplation of my marriage/civil union with (their name).”
Is my will still valid if I separate or get a divorce?
If you were married, or in a civil union, and you separate, your partner will still get anything that you’ve given them in your will, until:
- you get a separation order, or
- you get legally divorced (get a “dissolution order”).
If you do get a separation order or a dissolution order, this will:
- remove your former spouse or civil union partner as a beneficiary (in other words, they won’t be given anything under the will), and
- remove your former spouse or civil union partner as trustee or executor in your will.
The rest of your will remains valid.
If you enter a new marriage or civil union, this will cancel your will (as explained above). This does not apply to de facto relationships.
Can I change my will before I get a separation or dissolution order?
You could change your will to remove your former spouse or civil union partner.
However, they may still be able to claim against your estate under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (see: “Relationship property laws if my partner has died”).
Is my will still valid if I enter or end a de facto relationship?
Unlike a marriage or a civil union, entering or ending a de facto relationship does not have any effect on your will.
If your de facto relationship ends, your will continues to be current until you take steps to change it. Even if you’ve been separated for a long time, your former de facto partner will still receive anything that you leave for them in your will.
If you enter a new de facto relationship, and you don’t update your will to include them, your partner might be able to claim against your estate under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (see: “Relationship property laws if my partner has died”).