Writing a Will is one of the most sensible decisions you will make, but it is also important to keep this Will updated.  It is recommended that you update your Will after any significant life changing event; Hilary Hargreaves, Associate in our Wills, Probate and Estate Planning department explains more here about these events and why they could impact your future if you leave your Will out of date.

You have moved home

If you have moved home since you last wrote your Will you should review it as the size of your estate may have changed, either through the value of the property or any capital you have from the sale of your previous home.  In the event that you have downsized, you may have sold some of your possessions that were specified in your previous Will and so are no longer be available for the named beneficiaries.

From a practical perspective, your contact details will be out of date if you have moved home, which should be accurately reflected in a current Will.

Your financial situation has changed

Our personal finances will naturally fluctuate over the years and it is important that your Will represents your financial status to ensure that any gifts included in the Will can be honoured when the time comes or that all monies in your estate are considered in the distribution.

If you have come into a substantial amount of money either through an inheritance, business or property sale or a lottery win, this could change the size of your estate and push you over the Inheritance Tax threshold, which is currently £325,000.  If your estate is over this amount at the time of your death, there is a 40% Inheritance Tax bill to be paid out of your estate.

Only by regularly reviewing your Will and evaluating the size of your estate can you make the necessary plans to reduce the risk of this being paid through efficient tax planning advice.

You have married or divorced

In the event that you have written a Will and then have married, your previous Will would become invalid at this point.  If you pass away with an invalid Will, your estate would pass as dictated by intestacy laws and not necessarily to the people you would wish.

We know that going through a divorce will be particularly difficult for all involved and your personal and financial life will have drastically altered by the time the divorce is finalised.  At this point, you should review your Will and make any necessary changes.

You have had children or grandchildren

Making arrangements for your children in your Will is crucial.  As and when you have a child you should update your Will, appointing guardians for them should you pass away before they turn 18 years of age.

Similarly, if you have had grandchildren you may choose to make provisions for them if you wish them to inherit certain assets from your estate or receive a certain amount of inheritance.

Your family relationships have changed

Unfortunately, not all families can live together in harmony and you may have a falling out with a member of your family.  In this situation, you can update your Will to specify that they should be excluded from any inheritance, and if they are named as an Executor you can remove them from this position.

Alternatively, you may have reconciled with a family member and now wish to appoint them as a beneficiary or as an Executor.  If you believe any exclusion or inclusion could lead to contention in the future, you can leave a Letter of Wishes to accompany your Will explaining the circumstances that have led to this decision.

If any of your named beneficiaries or Executors sadly die before you, you will need to update your Will.

Your charity affiliations change

During the course of our lifetime we will have charities that we support.  Events may happen to our loved ones that mean we change in our philanthropic leanings, so if this occurs you should review your Will to specify which charity you wish to leave a gift to and what that gift is.

There have been changes in your business

If you are a business owner or shareholder in a business, it is likely that you have made provisions for this in your existing Will.  When there are any changes, for example, if you have sold the business or any shares, or the partnership has developed, you may need to update your Will to reflect this.

How do I update my Will?

Keeping your Will up to date can be straight forward depending on the change.  We can discuss the options with you and advise as to the best course of action, depending on the updates that are required.

Even without any significant life changes, we would recommend that you review your Will every five to seven years to ensure that your wishes are adhered to and to consider any other estate planning needs.  Seeking the advice of an experienced legal advisor to update your Will means we can advise not only on the best course of action for your Will and the future of your estate but also how to reduce any risk of contentious claims in the future and provide advice on any tax planning or other important documents that may be suitable, for example a Lasting Power of Attorney.  Contact a member of the experienced and pragmatic Wills, Probate and Estate Planning department today to book your appointment.

Our contributor

Hilary Hargreaves

Associate

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