What to do if a beneficiary dies before you?

07 July 2017

By Head of Wills, solicitor James Antoniou

A lot can change in between the writing of your will and the date of your passing. Sometimes further beneficiaries will be born, and sometimes the beneficiaries you have named will pass away before you.

If one of the beneficiaries named in your will has died, you need to review your will as it may need to be updated.

Check the wording of your will

Whether or not your will needs to be updated largely depends on how the will is written, as it may already set out what should happen if a beneficiary dies before you. For instance, the will might say that everything should pass to your husband, but if he dies before you, then everything should pass to your child instead.

However if your will has not made such provisions then you have three options:

  1. Re-write your will
  2. Officially amend your will with a ‘codicil’, or
  3. Do nothing and accept that your estate may not be distributed as you intended

Re-writing a will

If a beneficiary dies before you and your will does not provide substitute beneficiaries, the best thing to do is re-write your will. This will ensure your will reflects the change in circumstances, meaning it is up-to-date with your latest wishes.

You might want the gift intended for the deceased beneficiary to go to someone else instead, such as their children. Or you might want to revise who gets what entirely.

Cost to change a will

There is usually a cost involved in changing a will but if your will has been written by co-op legal services, and the changes to your will are small, then we'll write new a will for you, but only charge a total amendment fee of £60 for a single will and £90 for mirror wills (prices include vat).  for complete details see how much does it cost to change a will?

Make a codicil

A codicil is a separate legal document that allows you to formally amend parts of your will. It means that you don’t have to write a completely new will.

It’s important not to make any amendments to your will yourself. If you write on the document, or use corrective fluid, it will be deemed invalid after your death. Instead, you should ask a professional will writer to draft a codicil for you. 

However there are certain drawbacks to codicils that you need to be aware of. For example, if a codicil isn’t kept with the will, it can easily go missing, meaning it could be overlooked after your death.

Also codicils are only really appropriate for minor changes; if you are making significant alterations to your will, it can cause confusion for the executors, and your wishes may not be carried out as you hoped.

Do not update or change the will at all

If you don’t amend your will, the gift may ‘lapse’, which means it will go back into your estate and be distributed elsewhere.

There are certain situations where the gift will not fail, but the law around this is quite complex. It is best and could be much cheaper in the long run to make your wishes clear now, rather than leave it to your executors to sort out after your death, or there could be delays and disagreements during the administration of your estate.

If one of your beneficiaries has died and you want to know whether your will needs updating, our professional will writers can help you.

Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change.

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