Your Will is not ‘cast in stone’ and should be reviewed on a regular basis to reflect changes in your personal or financial circumstances.
The following are examples of when you should review your Will:
Changes in your Personal Circumstances:
Marriage automatically revokes your Will so it is essential to change your existing Will or make a new Will to reflect this change in your circumstances.
If this is a second marriage you may wish to change your existing Will to protect your children from your first marriage or to include or exclude stepchildren.
- Divorce or Separation
Contrary to popular belief, getting divorced does not automatically revoke your Will.
Divorce has no impact on your existing Will whatsoever unless and until your Decree Absolute is made. Even then your Will is read as though your former spouse has died on that date and therefore potentially creates an intestacy or other problems.
If you die before your Decree is made Absolute then your (soon to be ex) spouse could still inherit your Estate under the terms of your Will.
One of the first things to do when separating is to review your Will and make the changes necessary to reflect your change in circumstances to protect your estate for your children or other chosen beneficiaries.
- You start living with someone
If you do not marry or enter into a civil partnership, but choose to live with someone it is essential to change your existing Will to reflect this.
The intestacy rules do not recognise cohabiting couples – irrespective of the length of time you may have cohabited – and your Estate will not go to your partner but to your next of kin under the strict intestacy rules.
- You become a parent
If you have become a parent then you must review your Will to appoint a guardian(s) to look after your child’s upbringing, health care, education and religious instruction should you die whilst your child is under age. You will also need to appoint a trustee to look after the financial side of raising your child.
Under the intestacy rules, children inherit at 18. You may consider this far too young, particularly when you are not around to guide them. You should review your Will to specify an older age – 21 or 25 perhaps.
- You become a grandparent
You may wish to leave a legacy or share of your Estate to your grandchild rather than rely on your own children making such provision.
- You become a step-parent
Unless you adopt your stepchildren they will not inherit from you. The intestacy rules do not recognise stepchildren.
You should review your Will to include stepchildren or exclude them and protect your own children.
- Your child or any beneficiary dies
- You may wish to leave a legacy or share of your Estate to their family instead
- Your Executor, trustee or guardian dies – or you fall out with them or their circumstances change so they are unable to act on your behalf.
If someone named in your Will dies or moves areas or you drift apart, for whatever reason, you need to review your Will to reflect this.
If your Will fails to meet your current personal circumstances and no provision is made for your family then your Will may be challenged under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This can lead to delay, stress for your Executors and family, as well as additional costs. If you take advice when your circumstances change this can be avoided.
Changes in your financial circumstances:
- If your Estate increases or decreases
If your Estate increases as a result of an inheritance, a win on the Lottery/Premium Bonds, increase in property values etc. you may need to review your Will to address whether your Estate is now subject to inheritance tax, or whether you should increase the legacies given or include additional beneficiaries.
If your Estate decreases because you have lost your job, suffered a decrease in property values, or have incurred additional expenditure supporting your children through college or onto the property ladder you may need to review your Will to reflect this.
It is important to make sure your Will accurately reflects your current financial situation.
- If you move abroad or acquire foreign assets
If you acquire a holiday home abroad or move temporarily or permanently abroad your Will made in England may not be recognised and you may have to consider foreign inheritance laws and customs.
- If you own a business or are a partner or director of a business
If you have just acquired an interest in a business your Will should deal with how the business is to manage if you were not there, what rights and duties your Executors would have and how your share is to be valued.
- Specific gifts
If you sell or give items away that have been mentioned in your Will you need to review your Will. In this way you avoid a disappointed beneficiary or disputes as to where the item has gone and why it has disappeared.
If you create a loan, mortgage or charge over your property you may wish to review your Will to deal with this change.
- Inheritance tax
You need to review your Will on a regular basis to make sure your liability for paying inheritance tax is kept to the minimum.
There are steps you can take both during your lifetime and by using your Will to reduce your liability for inheritance tax.
You need to take advice on a regular basis as the threshold for paying inheritance tax, the allowances and the loopholes available can vary each tax year.
- Nursing home fees
You may be liable for nursing home fees in the future and need to address this in your Will. The fees you pay may have an effect on your Estate – who inherits and the amount they inherit.
There are steps you can take during your lifetime and by using your Will to address this issue.
What is the next step?
At MACKS we strongly recommend a regular face-to-face meeting, every five years, with one of our specialist solicitors to review your Will, make sure your wishes are met and to ensure that your Will deals with your current personal and financial circumstances.
By carrying out a five year review you give yourself and your family peace of mind.