As you go through life, there will undoubtedly be major changes along the way. Once you have made a Will, it is important to review it on a regular basis, as well as in light of any big events.
A Will exists to ensure that your estate is distributed in the way that you want and that your final wishes are carried out. As well as providing financial support for your loved ones, a Will can give them the reassurance of knowing what you want to happen after you are gone.
If you don’t make a Will or you fail to update your Will once it has been made, there is a risk that those whom you want to inherit could be left out. For example, if you marry, then your Will becomes invalid, unless it was specifically made in contemplation of your marriage.
When should I review my Will?
It is recommended that a Will be reviewed at least every five years. Your wishes may have changed in that time, or someone whom you have appointed to be an executor, trustee or guardian may no longer be able or willing to act.
It may also be the case that you wish to share out your estate in a different way, for example, if the needs of your beneficiaries have changed.
As well as reviewing your Will regularly, you should also consider whether any changes need to be made following major life events, to include the following:
Marriage or civil partnership
If you marry or enter into a civil partnership, your Will is automatically revoked unless it was specifically made in contemplation of the event. This means that if you were to die, your estate would be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy and not necessarily go to the people you would like to inherit.
Divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership
If you divorce or your civil partnership is dissolved, then your former spouse or partner will not inherit anything, even if you named them in your Will. There is a risk that some of your estate would then be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy, or that others named in your Will might inherit substantially more than you intended.
Buying a property
Buying a property is always a big investment and it is advisable to consider how you will own it, if it will be jointly owned, and what will happen to it in the event that you die. There are two different ways of owning property jointly and they have very different effects on what happens after a death.
If you hold property as joint tenants, then the surviving owner automatically owns the whole property upon the death of the other owner.
If you hold property as tenants in common, then your share of the property would pass in accordance with the terms of your Will or, if you do not have a valid Will, under the Rules of Intestacy. This could potentially cause difficulties for the other owner if your share was to pass to a third person.
If you have a child, then you are likely to want to review your Will to ensure you make adequate provision for them. As well as leaving them an inheritance, you can also appoint a guardian to look after them until they come of age. If you do not do this, the court will decide who cares for them.
You can also appoint trustees to manage any money and property you are leaving to them until they reach the age that you would like them to inherit.
If you have grandchildren, you are also likely to want to review your Will to take them into account.
A change in your financial circumstances
If you have a change in your financial circumstances, this could have a bearing on how much those named in your Will receive. For example, if you have left a number of cash gifts of specified amounts to beneficiaries and the remainder of your estate, known as the residue, to someone else, the amount of this residue could change substantially if your wealth goes up or down.
This could mean that the residuary beneficiaries receive a lot more or a lot less than you intended.
A change in the law
From time to time, the law in respect of issues such as Inheritance Tax and lifetime gifts changes, meaning that your Will may no longer set out the most tax-efficient way of passing on your estate. Legitimately minimising the amount of Inheritance Tax payable can make a substantial difference to the amount your beneficiaries will receive and it is always recommended that you review your arrangements in the light of any legal changes.
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Our experienced lawyers can guide you through a Will review to ensure that all of the provisions you have made are right for your circumstances and that your beneficiaries will be provided for in the way that you want for the future.