A will is possibly one of the most important legal documents you will ever put in place. When you wrote your will, you spent time considering everything, from who to appoint as executors, to who would inherit your assets. At the time, what you put in your will was relevant. But is that still the case?
Many people write their will, tick the ‘task complete’ box and then forget all about it. But life has a habit of changing and, if something significant has happened, it could well have altered things considerably, which could mean that your will is out of date. Some life events even have the power to render a will completely invalid.
If your will is no longer up to date, it could lead to numerous issues which may cause added worry and upset to those you leave behind. It may even mean that the people you really wanted to take care of are left with less than you intended, or potentially, nothing at all.
How often should a will be updated?
There is no officially set precedent for updating a will, although the general advice is to set yourself a reminder for a review every five years.
Take time to run through your will, ensuring that it still reflects your wishes. There are certain events that would prompt a need for an update, so it is helpful to be aware of these when undertaking your review.
When does a will need to be updated?
The following events should prompt you to seek legal advice regarding updating your will:
You’ve married or entered into a civil partnership since making your will
Marriage and civil partnership changes everything in legal terms. In England and Wales, getting married automatically revokes any existing will, unless that will was made specifically in contemplation of marriage.
You’ve separated or divorced since your will was made
If you have separated from your partner or spouse since your will was made, then your priorities will have changed. It is important to update your will in these circumstances, otherwise on your death, your ex-spouse or partner could receive everything if that is how your will was written.
It is especially important to change your will if you jointly owned property or had children with the ex-spouse or partner. Likewise, it is just as important to be aware that a separation does not automatically mean that an ex-partner loses their legal right to a share of your estate; that will be down to the specifics of the separation agreement or divorce. Specialist legal advice really is crucial in situations like these.
You’ve had children since making your will
You will of course want to include your children in your will, ensuring that you provide for them in the event of your passing. But more than this, a will makes it possible to appoint guardians for your children, should they still be dependent when you die.
You can also use a will to set up a trust designed to financially support your children whilst they are still young, care of an appointed trustee, and can stipulate the age at which they may access their full inheritance. If you have a disabled child, it is imperative that you seek specialist legal advice when making provision for them in a will, because any potential inheritance or income from a trust could affect any benefits they are receiving.
New grandchildren have come along recently
Many grandparents like to include gifts for their grandchildren in their wills. If you have welcomed new family members since you made your will and would like to include them, you will need to make an update.
Inheritance Tax rules have changed
Taxation rules are subject to change, and sometimes these changes are very significant. Even if your family or personal situation has not altered, and your wishes remain the same, certain legislative updates could prompt the need to amend your will.
When, for example, the Inheritance Tax threshold is raised, it sparks changes to the amount of assets that married couples and civil partners are able to pass on a tax-free basis. The introduction of the residence nil rate band (RNRB) in 2017 also had a significant impact for those leaving a main residence to direct descendants.
A will writing expert with specific expertise in tax matters will be able to advise you on whether a re-write is necessary in such circumstances. It may also be that any wealth management or succession strategy you have in place will need a review.
You moved home after making your will
Updating an address on a will is a simple task and is usually just a case of attaching a note. However, if you have downsized and released some equity, you may want to use those funds to set up a trust fund, perhaps for your grandchildren.
Other options may be more suitable for any specific financial goals you have, so it is always wise to take independent financial advice, as well as legal advice, in these circumstances.
An executor has died, or is no longer suitable
It is vital that you have trustworthy and capable executors appointed to undertake the very important task of administering your estate when you die. If the executor you appointed in your will has died, then you will need to nominate another one.
Should you feel that thane executor is no longer in a position to carry out their duties, then again, you should make a change. If you do not have anyone in mind you feel you can trust, then you have the option to appoint a solicitor as your executor.
One of your beneficiaries has passed away
You may have already made provision in your will as to what happens if a gift fails due to a beneficiary passing away before you. If not, or if circumstances have generally changed since you made your decision, then it is time to change your will.
Never assume that a gift will automatically pass to the other named beneficiaries, or to the next of kin of the named beneficiary. Always take legal advice so you can be certain your wishes will be carried out.
How can a will be changed?
A will can only be officially updated in one of two ways: a codicil, or a new will.
A codicil has to be executed in the same way as a will, in other words, signed and witnessed, before being attached to the main will. It is generally cheaper than making a completely new will, although it is not suitable for all types of changes.
Making a completely new will is usually the best option. If you are changing beneficiaries, creating a trust, or making more than just one or two amendments, then a new will is generally going to be the recommended course of action.
A Professional Will Writing Service from Partridge Muir & Warren
At Partridge Muir & Warren, our aim is to protect the wealth of our clients, and we do this in a number of ways. By expertly taking care of both the financial and the legal aspects of estate planning, we are able to provide a fully comprehensive service, one that will ensure your wishes are met, with your loved ones taken care of in precisely the way you want them to be.
Why not contact us today to discover how we can help ensure you have what you need in place to take care of your financial future, and those you care about too?