Can I Change The Terms of a Will After The Testator Has Passed?

Spoiler alert: Yes, you can.
Can I Change The Terms of a Will After The Testator Has Passed?

Have you heard of the Family Provision Act? This law recognises that individuals are able to distribute their property and/or assets via their Will after they pass. But, it also acknowledges that the Will can be in contention if one of your beneficiaries (or someone who believes they should be a beneficiary) feels as though you haven’t upheld your responsibility to fairly divide your assets and provide for all family members. The Family Provision Act therefore allows individuals to seek provision from a Will of a deceased loved one if they believe they haven’t been adequately provided for.

When can the terms of a Will change?

There are a range of reasons it might be necessary to change the terms of a Will. The Executor is typically the one responsible for dividing assets and carrying out the wishes set out in a Will of a deceased person, however, if some terms of the Will are impossible to carry out, the Will can be altered for relevancy.

1. If one of the beneficiaries has passed away

Of course, if a beneficiary has passed away they won’t be able to receive the assets assigned to them. As a result, these assets might need to be given to other children or siblings instead.

2. If a beneficiary cannot be found

Estranged family members can be difficult to locate. If you’re an Executor of a Will and have done your best to locate a beneficiary but have failed to find them, the terms of a Will can be altered accordingly. However, it is really important to prove you have truly done everything in your power to locate and/or contact the beneficiary.

3. If a gift or item has been lost or destroyed

For example, a family heirloom that was lost while moving houses, or a piece of jewellery you simply can’t find.

If the terms of a Will are no longer relevant, do I just change them myself?

Nope, you can’t change the terms of a Will on your own accord. In fact, it’s important you get a lawyer involved to ensure everything is done correctly.

It’s also important to note that you can’t actually change the specific words of a Will. Rather, you can only vary the way assets are distributed amongst beneficiaries.

For example, if a parent decides to leave half his assets to his son, and then divide the other half between his two daughters, the three children might decide they’d prefer to split all the assets equally. If all three siblings are above the age of 18 and they all agree to the adjustment in terms, this can be achieved with the help of a lawyer via a Deed of Family Arrangement. This Deed formalises the term changes and protects the Executor in case a beneficiary changes their mind later on (#drama).

Wrap up

While you can’t change the exact wording of another person’s Will after they’ve passed, there can sometimes be reasons for you wanting to alter elements of the terms of a Will depending on your (or your family’s) circumstances). Thankfully, with the help of a lawyer, this can be achieved, ensuring a fair distribution of assets amongst family members and loved ones.

Interested in learning more about the Family Provision Act? Read our guide here. And if you haven’t yet written your Will – or you have written one online with Willed already – consider whether it might be time to update your Will. Family dynamics and relationships change over time, as do your assets, so it’s important to ensure everything you own is given to the right person (or people) once you pass.

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