Hi there. I’m thinking of getting my will drawn up by a lawyer so its done right the first time. But after that, when do I have to update it, and can I just update the will myself if there are any big changes in my life?
There is nothing preventing you from drafting up your own will once you know exactly what you want to put in it.
The benefit of having a lawyer structure your will for you is that they can advise you on the best way to achieve the outcome you want having regard to taxation, potential claims on your will etc. However if you go back to the same lawyer to have it adjusted in a few years to reflect changes of assets etc, it shouldn't be as expensive the second time around if they have already advised you on and have a copy of your existing will on their file. It can also be drafted with non-specific descriptions of assets where appropriate - for example referring to your home as your residential property - not 21 Green Road - so if you sell up and move to another house - that house will automatically become the residential property mentioned in your will.
If you are intent on changing your will yourself, you can make minor changes once you have the basis of it drafted by a lawyer, but make sure you understand exactly what is written in your will and how it structures your estate. Just remember that:
it must be in writing
it must be signed by you
two witnesses must sign and acknowledge the will in your presence at the same time.
If you make subsequent amendments to your will, you can do so either on the will itself or by a codicil (amendment document).
1. will itself: you will need to make sure that such amendments are signed (or initialed) by yourself in the presence of or later acknowledged by two witnesses (who cannot be beneficiaries under the will) and dated. Such amendments must be made before the execution of the will (i.e. finalising of the original will).
2. codicil: this document needs to refer to the original will, expressly mention that it was meant to amend the original will and in all other respects (i.e. where it is not inconsistent with the original will) it reaffirms the original will, and follow all the formalities required for a will (signature of testator/will-maker, two witnesses who cannot be beneficiaries under the will, dated, in writing, attestation clause). You can draft this yourself but it is best to have a lawyer draft it up so that you can be sure it is valid.