We aim to make our Wills as “future-proof” as possible. However, it’s a good idea to review your Will every 3-5 years to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances.
Here are five essential circumstances when you should review your Will:
Buying & Selling Property
Buying a first home, moving home, expanding a property portfolio and inheriting property are “Will Review” prompts. Property and land are some of the most valuable assets you will own, and you do not want there to be any lack of clarity in your Will.
Suppose you no longer own an asset specifically mentioned in your Will. You may want to update the Will by leaving a different asset or removing the asset from your Will.
Changes in Your Financial Position
If the size of your estate changes considerably, either up or down, you should review your Will.
Do you want a charity to benefit from your newly acquired wealth? Maybe you bought or sold an asset, such as a home, started a new business, or there may be a new, valuable belonging that you know a loved one will cherish. However small the changes to your estate may be, you may wish to vary how your assets are allocated.
Fuel and energy prices have risen sharply in the UK, with many people facing much higher living costs. The Bank of England expects this inflation rate to reach around 8% this spring and believe it could continue increasing.
What does this mean for me?
An increase in living costs may cause financial hardship, and some people may have to sell their assets and utilise their savings to supplement their income.
For example, any gifts in your Will are paid to the beneficiaries before the residue is added-up. If the value of your estate were to decrease, this might mean the residuary beneficiaries receive less than those receiving gifts. In this scenario, you may wish to redress the balance, and a lawyer will be able to help make the relevant changes.
Protection of Assets
When you created your Will, you may not have felt you wanted or needed to protect certain assets. As a result, you may wish to add trusts to your Will to efficiently preserve your assets, whether to help with the cost of care, if you need it, or help benefit your family.
As well as assisting with the cost of care, setting up a trust in your Will can also include the following benefits:
Inheritance Tax efficiency (IHT)
Asset Protection for the family following divorce
Preserving assets of family members with disabilities
Changes in Personal Circumstances
Family dynamics and romantic relationships can change substantially over the years. Although reviewing your Will in these situations probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind, we recommend you revisit your Will following any significant changes in your family and personal life.
A new partner: consider updating your Will to provide for a new partner. It is essential if you live together, or buy a significant asset together, such as a house or business.
Marriage: be aware that marriage automatically revokes a Will unless specific wording states that the Will is drafted with marriage to a particular person in mind and that you do not want it to be cancelled by your marriage.
Divorce and separation: once the decree absolute (the legal document that ends your marriage) is granted, a former spouse will not benefit under your Will. The Will is interpreted as if they have died before you. However, they can still benefit until that point, so updating your Will is essential when you separate.
If you have children or a death in the family that may affect the distribution of your assets, you will need to review your Will and update it to reflect the appropriate changes.
Does Your Will Reflect Your Present Wishes?
Aside from reviewing your Will in terms of who is to benefit from your estate, it’s also important to assess whether the Executors, Trustees or Guardians appointed in your existing Will may no longer be appropriate. It is essential to consider whether your current Will represents your present wishes.
“Falling out” with a Beneficiary may mean you no longer wish to include them in your Will. However, certain family members and dependents may still be able to make a claim against your estate even if they are not named in your Will. We recommend taking legal advice before “cutting someone out” of your Will.
What Happens if You Pass Away Without a Will?
Your estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy if you pass away without leaving a will. It is important to note that the rules of intestacy may give no regard to what you may or may not have intended to happen to your estate, e.g. a partner you were not married to or in a civil partnership with has no right to inherit.
This is a general guide that cannot cover all possibilities, and there are many other reasons to make and review a Will. Please get in touch with our Trusts and Estates Department if you want to find out more about creating or updating your Will.
Our experienced Trusts and Estates team will be able to assist you with any queries or worries you may have, to reach out today, you can fill out the form below and someone will be in touch. Alternatively, you can call us on 01494 452211 to speak to a member of the team.
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