Wills and name changes

This brief guide outlines best practice when dealing with wills where the testator has changed their name since the will was made.

It also points to relevant precedents and documents held in our library.

General name changes

Butterworths Wills, Probate and Administrative Service (loose-leaf, 1990- ) states at paragraph A2.10 that:

  • a testator’s full name should be obtained, and
  • it is desirable for the will to record any variations in the name, and particularly in the surname, whether by a different spelling or a different name altogether

In the case of an individual discarding their previous surname, such as following a civil partnership or marriage, this is not strictly necessary.

Best practice would be for the will to reference all names used by the testator.

However, a note should be made of all the names a testator uses, or has used, including the name that appears on their birth certificate.

If applicable, any note should also include reference to the name on the testator's adoption certificate.

Name change following a GRC

Where the testator has a change of name which has been recognised through a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), this can change the testator’s name and allowed their ‘acquired gender’ to be legally recognised which, in the context of wills, allows the affirmed gender to be stated on their death certificate.

Issuing a GRC impacts any marriage or civil partnership that the trans testator may be in.

Best practice would be to make a new will once any annulment, divorce or dissolution to end the marriage or civil partnership has concluded.

A will can be made in contemplation of marriage or in contemplation of divorce/dissolution.

A separate letter of wishes (to be opened in the event of a dispute) can be helpful to explain reasons for a testamentary instrument in unusual circumstances.

The Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, Volume 42(1) Wills and Administration (2011) states (at paragraph 54) that if the testator has changed his name which could cause doubt or confusion, the former names should be stated.

This also applies if the testator has become generally known by a nickname.

Copies of documents and pages from books held by the Law Society library can be emailed via Lawdocs, our document supply service.

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