Advice Admin & Legal What can make a will invalid?

What can make a will invalid?

The UK Government recommends we update our wills every 5 years to make sure they are up-to-date and still valid. Life changes - maybe your relationships have changed, where you live, what you own, or your wishes - and wills should too. Each time any of these things change you need to update this important legal document.

Knowing what makes a will invalid can help to prevent it from happening.

What happens if a will is invalid?

If a will is deemed invalid it might mean that your latest wishes aren’t followed. They might revert instead to an older, outdated will or trigger the rules of intestacy - where the government decides how to divide up your estate.

It’s also a painfully long, expensive and drawn-out process that is worth avoiding by spending as little as 20 minutes on getting it right today.

What makes a will invalid?

A will can be invalidated in several ways.

  1. If the will isn’t done properly
  • There are some rules and regs that determine what makes a proper will.
  • For example, for a will to be legally binding it needs to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who are 18+ years old (with the odd exception, such as during COVID). Find out more about who can witness a will here.
  • Another example is if the will isn’t original - i.e. it’s a copy or it’s been altered or falsified, because… that’s fishy.
  1. If any of the below apply to the person writing the will:
  • They're under 18
  • They lacked mental capacity at the time of writing
  • They were forced or pressured to write their will by a third party (under duress)
  • They were manipulated into writing their will by a third party (under undue influence)
  1. If the will writer chooses to invalidate the will (voluntary invalidation)

  2. If circumstances or events occur that make the will invalid (involuntary invalidation)

How to invalidate your own will?

There’s one simple way to invalidate your own will - by writing a new one.

But that's not all:

Destroying your old will (known as voluntary revocation)

The CTRL ALT DELETE of the will world. This involves destroying your will or making sure it can’t be read anymore.

  • If you do this without creating a new will you won't have a say in what happens to the people and things that are most important to you when you die. This is called dying intestate and your estate will be divided up according to the rules of intestacy.

Destroy your old will AND edit or rewrite your will using our online will service (voluntary revocation)

Step 1: Destroy your old will Step 2: Make the required changes on our dashboard & submit it to be reviewed by our team Step 3: Sign the amended version with witnesses

  • Creating a new will in this way is effectively a voluntary revocation
  • It allows you to make any amends, such as changing how your estate is divided
  • This is free for the first year after writing your will and only £10 per year after that via our annual will subscription
  • You can do this as many times as you like
  • Remember to bin/shred previous versions to avoid confusion

You don’t always have to CTRL ALT DELETE a will to update it to reflect your new wishes. You can also:

Create a codicil

This is a fancy legal way of saying make an ‘amendment’ that will sit alongside your original will. This will also need to be signed and witnessed. Find out more about codicils here.

  • This only applies to smaller amendments, you can't make more significant changes via a codicil
  • The average cost of a codicil is around £20-£80
  • There is no limit to the number of codicils you can write

When does a will become invalid?

A will becomes invalid when you follow the steps above (voluntary revocation) or if certain events happen (involuntary revocation).

This includes marriage, where the rules of intestacy will automatically apply after you get married, unless you write a will specifying otherwise.

A good way to avoid this is: By specifically referencing an upcoming marriage in your will ahead of time or specifying the will is ‘in contemplation of marriage’.

It's easier to make your online will right after you get married to save yourself the faff!

Does divorce invalidate a will?

A will does not become automatically invalid after you get divorced.

They remain valid - but how the estate is distributed will change slightly if the ex-spouse was a beneficiary in the will.

After a divorce is finalised, the ex-spouse is effectively treated as ‘deceased’ by the courts and can’t inherit their share of the estate. Often wills lay out a plan for what happens next, e.g. if my ex-spouse is deceased then I want their share of the estate to go to the remaining beneficiaries, or to their children. As long as this plan exists, and you're happy with it, the will is still good to go.

If there isn’t a plan for what happens if the ex-spouse is deceased, then the rules of intestacy would apply, and writing a will is probably sensible. If your wishes have changed it’s also worth rewriting your will.

Writing an online will with Guardian Angel allows you to easily put these provisions into place, preventing any potential stress further down the line.

Does a change of address invalidate a will?

A change of address of any individual named in the will does not automatically make the will invalid.

Usually, the relevant person can still be identified.

However, if the person can’t be tracked down, that’s when it gets complicated. This is why it’s always best to update your address and the addresses of any executors, guardians, beneficiaries or anyone else named in your will to make it easier for all involved.

If someone moves around regularly, then rather than having to update it each time, you can just put a ‘care of’ address instead.

Lastly, your executors, guardians and beneficiaries, do not have to live in the UK, so including updated international addresses is also crucial to ensure your will is as sound and protected as possible.