Skip to main content

Throughout your professional journey, you will inevitably meet clients who believe that once their will is written, it’s a job done. But as any adviser knows, drafting a will is just the beginning.

To remain effective, clients should revise their wills every 12 months. This is to ensure the document’s drafting is kept up to date and reflects the client’s current circumstances. Any changes that have occurred which may compromise the will or the client’s wishes can then be accounted for, either by amending the existing will or drafting a new one.

A unique opportunity

As an adviser, this review process presents a unique opportunity to reconnect with your clients on a yearly basis. By sending your clients a friendly reminder every 12 months to revise their will, you’re ensuring they continue to have the best possible planning in place while also creating opportunities for further business.

Here, we’ll look at the benefits of regularly revising clients’ wills and how to approach that. We’ll also address issues around amending an existing client document and why we advise drafting an entirely new will.

Reasons for reviewing a will

Aside from the 12-monthly review, there are several triggers that could occur within a client’s lifetime that should prompt them to review their will. These include but are not limited to:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce or separation
  • New children in the family
  • A life-changing diagnosis
  • Death or loss of capacity of executor/s
  • Changes to personal contact details
  • Changes in legislation that affect the will

You can advise your clients of these ‘trigger events’ at the time of the will’s initial drafting. You could even consider including this information in a client Information Pack, together with other insights they may find useful in managing their wills going forward, and how and when to contact you for help on such matters in the future.

For example: many clients may be unaware that a new marriage voids any existing will that was not made in contemplation of the marriage. This means that, even if a client has a will in place prior to their marriage, failure to write a new one following the marriage effectively leaves them intestate.

This can result in beneficiaries being accidentally disinherited. Under the rules of intestacy, the deceased’s entire estate passes to the surviving spouse who is under no obligation to observe the original wishes as set out in the deceased’s now-invalid will. They can even choose to distribute these assets to their own chosen beneficiaries, such as children from a previous marriage, cutting out the deceased’s original intended beneficiaries completely.

This process, known as sideways disinheritance, is just one example of why it’s important for clients to review their wills regularly, and to be aware of any life events that could invalidate or undermine their current will.


Another reason for a client to revisit their will is if they’ve neglected to appoint a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). It’s advisable everyone chooses an LPA to make future financial and welfare decisions on their behalf should the need arise. However, many clients choose not to do this at the time of writing their will.

A decline in health or receipt of an unfavourable diagnosis often compels clients who don’t have an LPA in place to follow this process up. Although a will and an LPA are two separate legal documents, making an LPA is also the perfect time to invite your client to revise and update their will.

Changing an existing client will: drawbacks of codicils

One way of updating a will is to make a codicil. This is a testamentary document, separate from the will itself, which can add to, revoke, and amend specific clauses within an existing will. It can also be used to make new provisions not cited in the original document.

Although it may seem like a ‘quick fix’ there are several drawbacks to making a codicil instead of redrafting a client’s will. For example: a codicil must be constructed and executed correctly for it to be valid. If improperly carried out, a codicil can be ineffective – or worse, revoke the will entirely.

Then there’s the issue of missing or misplaced documents. If a client’s will has one or more supplementary codicils, there’s a greater risk of these documents becoming lost or separated from the will. As there’s no mention of codicils in the original will, it’s possible an executor may be unaware of their existence or that the testator has made any amendments to their will.

Codicils can also cause confusion when it comes to interpreting a client’s will. Multiple codicils may even end up contradicting one another. If the wishes of the testator are unclear, it will be left for the court to decide the meaning of the will based on specific interpretation rules.

Finally, codicils can compromise the privacy of a client’s will. This is because the will and all associated documents, including codicils, become public following the testator’s death. If the client has used a codicil to amend their will – reducing funds left to a particular beneficiary, for example, this will be evident when the will is made public. It can cause embarrassment, upset, and conflict among loved ones as well as inciting grounds for contestation of the will.

Making a new will

The solution to the issues outlined above is for clients to make a new will rather than amend an existing one. This is undoubtedly the best and most accurate way to ensure the client has an up-to-date will that not only considers their wishes but also complies with, and takes advantage of, current legalisation that applies to their estate and circumstances.

It is essential any major changes to a client’s will, such as removal of a beneficiary, are made by revoking the old will and writing a new one. In this way, you can ensure due diligence is followed regarding testamentary capacity and that any significant changes cannot be questioned or challenged after the client’s death.

In conclusion

Clients should be encouraged to review their will every 12 months. This not only ensures your clients continue to have the best provision in place; it also provides you with an opportunity to reconnect with them. In this way, you can also reaffirm the value of your services and generating future business.

Reviewing the old will and drafting a new one with any updates or amendments offers clients the best protection when it comes to making changes to their will.

CTT’s Legacy Software, together with CTT’s expert team of advisers, can help you improve your drafting processes and forge meaningful client connections.

Whilst having a will is a great starting point, a trust can add a further layer of protection for your clients. CTT’s Will Writer to Estate Planner course gives you everything you need start using trusts as part of your client provision.

For more helpful advice on how to meet your clients’ needs, speak to a member of the CTT Legal team today.