As we get older our circumstances change and as a result it is sensible to review and adjust our plans accordingly. As a rule of thumb, we should review our Will every five years or following a major life change. David Hill, Private Client Partner discusses the major life events that require a review along with a few other events out of our control that could also impact your estate.
Marriage or Civil Partnership
An existing Will will be cancelled when you marry or enter into a civil partnership, unless you were planning to marry or enter into a civil partnership at the time of making the Will and include a statement naming your intended spouse. Without this statement the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out, is to create a new Will. If you don’t your estate will be governed by the intestacy rules (where the law decides who benefits from your estate) and your new spouse will be seen as your next of kin, meaning any children from a previous relationship may not inherit as you intended.
Divorce or Dissolution
Conversely, unlike entering into a marriage or civil partnership, divorce or dissolution does not automatically cancel your Will. It will however, remove your former spouse as a beneficiary or executor. Whilst the other beneficiaries will inherit it could mean that part of your estate does not have a “home” (i.e. the portion that was previously intended for your spouse).
Long term relationships
If you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner is not automatically entitled to benefit from your estate, unless you have a Will. This is especially important if you have children, as under the intestacy provisions your children would inherit your estate and not your partner. This could mean that your partner has to take legal action in order to receive any benefit.
If you have children you may want to include provisions for guardians, or determine an age that they may have to reach before they receive an inheritance. A child will automatically receive an inheritance when they reach their 18th birthday which may not be appropriate. If you would like children to be older when they inherit, you must make this clear in the Will. If you have a child with health issues you may want to provide for them in a different way, for example by putting a trust in place rather than leaving them a lump sum gift.
Retirement signals a huge change in both personal and financial circumstances. You may have specific pension arrangements which have potential benefits for your family should anything happen to you and a review of your finances is an integral part of any properly planned Will.
You should regularly check that the value of your estate is still sufficient to meet the bequests you wish to make. If specific legacies make up more in value than your estate is worth, then it might result in your property being sold in order to satisfy those gifts. If you don’t want to run that risk, then you should always be aware of how much in individual gifts you are leaving as a proportion of your estate.
With so much to organise when moving house, updating a Will if often low on the priority list or forgotten completely. At the very least a record should be placed with your Will to reflect your current address.
There are also a few events which although completely out of your control could have an impact on your estate. These include:
- a change in the law, in particular inheritance tax changes
- if your executor can no longer handle the responsibility or is no longer the person you want to deal with your estate
- if a beneficiary has died you may want to name someone else
Reviewing your Will will enable you to check that it still accurately reflects the way you would like your estate to be distributed after you die and ultimately ensure that you protect your loved ones.
Finally, it is important to note, if you want to make changes to your will following a review, there are two options. You can either make a codicil (amendment) to your existing Will or make a new Will. In both cases the changes need to be dealt with correctly to ensure that they are effective – a simple note with your Will or papers is unlikely to be effective.
If you have a question about your Will or what to make changes please contact our Private Client Team today on 01225 750 000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready and able to work remotely with all the processes in place to ensure we can carry out your wishes and comply with social distancing rules.