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Will Or Codicil?

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By Farah Nathar, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

For many people, estate planning can be a difficult subject to discuss. It is unsurprising then that this particular issue lacks priority in people’s fast-paced lives. All too often, decisions concerning Wills and the distribution of estate occur when emotions are running high. Take the time to review or prepare your estate planning to ensure some peace of mind for the important people in your life.

In previous articles, we have discussed the importance of preparing a Will: 

‘Tis the Season to Update Your Will and Enduring Powers of Attorney

Dying without a Will – costs, conflict and chaos

However, a Will isn’t something you should make once and forget about. It is important to ensure that your Will is reviewed in light of changing circumstances and kept up to date. These are some of the situations that may necessitate a review of your will:

  • You get married, enter into a de facto relationship, divorce or separate
  • Your executors or guardians die or become unavailable
  • A major event occurs in your family- eg. A beneficiary dies, becomes bankrupt or mentally or physically disabled
  • There is a significant change in your assets or superannuation;
  • If you have specifically bequeathed an asset in your Will previously (eg. Shares in a company, or property) and the ownership or character of the asset changes;
  • There have been changes in taxation or superannuation laws

Depending on the change required, you may need to completely make a new Will, or you could prepare a “codicil”. A codicil is a separate document that refers to your earlier Will and makes changes, but does not your replace, your earlier Will. It needs to be signed and witnessed by two independent adults and should be kept alongside your Will. A codicil should be used only to make minor changes and not contradict or cause confusion to your Will. For example, a codicil may be appropriate where you wish to appoint a new executor to your Will.

More significant changes should be dealt with by preparing a new Will. 

It is important to get professional advice when deciding to prepare a new Will or codicil. If either document is done incorrectly, even the seemingly smallest of errors can lead to a costly legal dispute. Often, it is a safer option (and just as easy) to prepare a new Will as it is to prepare a codicil.

If you have any questions about your Will or any Estate Planning matter, contact our Wills & Estates team by email or by telephone +61 3 8540 0200.