How Can I Change My Will?

Last updated on August 24, 2018

Featured image for the "How Can I Change My Will?" article. It features a last will and testament document with the word 'last' striked out.

In recent times, Singaporeans have been more open-minded on discussing the once taboo topic – life after death. This has led to greater awareness on the importance of estate planning, given the prospects of lengthy family disputes long after one’s demise as well.

However, even if you have already made a will, certain major life events might necessitate changes to the will.

When Might You Want to Change Your Will?

There are a whole range of circumstances where you might want to make changes to your will. Non-exhaustive examples include:

  1. The addition of new members to the family, such as the birth of a child or grandchild.
  2. The death of a beneficiary or executor of the will.
  3. Acquisition of a fresh property or when you start a new business.
  4. A change of religion or personal beliefs.
  5. In the event of a divorce.

Unlike how wills are invalidated upon your marriage, divorcing your spouse will not cause your will to be automatically revoked. To give effect to your new status quo, you might want to make changes to your will after you have divorced your spouse.

Ah, those 4 simple words. Once uttered, they mark the eventual death of your single life and also of your will. No not your will to live, but your Last Will and Testament. – In general, wills made before marriage are automatically revoked once you get married. This means they will no longer have any legal effect when you pass away. You’ll have to make a new will to redistribute your assets (with some hopefully going to your other half too, yes?) – P.S.: Note that the same DOES NOT apply if you get divorced. In other words, your will is NOT automatically revoked if you and your spouse split up. Therefore, do remember to also revoke your will if you’re divorcing your spouse. If you don’t, your ex-spouse will still be entitled to any assets you’ve left to him or her in your will. Your ex-spouse will appreciate your generosity, but you probably won’t.

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How to Change Your Will

A document called a codicil can be executed to make amendments to a previously executed will. Typically attached to the original will, a codicil makes additions to your original will, explaining, modifying, or revoking the will or part of it.

Amendments made by a codicil may be small (for example, changing the executors) or it may change the will significantly. A codicil must be executed in the same way as a will. For example, it must be dated correctly and signed in the presence of 2 witnesses.

Discarding Your Original Will and Drafting a New One

Should substantial and radical changes be required to be made to the original will, it may be better to draft a fresh will instead of executing a codicil(s).

This would help to provide clarity on how you now want your property to be distributed upon your death, instead of readers of your will having to refer to separate documents and potentially getting confused on what your wishes are.

If a new will is drafted, the previous will should be torn up or shredded to avoid confusion. Also, it is advisable for you to advise your executors or family members where the latest will is kept so they know where to retrieve it.

Should You Change Your Will Yourself?

It might not be prudent to make changes to your will yourself. While you are able to do so on your own, you might be tempted to make changes by making minor additions or subtractions to the original will, which would most certainly invalidate the entire will.

In addition, the vocabulary you have used in drafting the codicil or the new will may not precisely reflect your new intentions.

A more prudent way would be to approach a wills lawyer should you wish to make changes to your original will. Being experienced in the law, the lawyer will be able to assist you with amending your will – or writing a new one entirely – and reducing the prospects of future challenges to the will’s validity.

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