How often should I review my Will?
Reviewing your Will at key times in your life is crucial to ensure it accurately states your wishes and intentions, and that any amendments are made promptly as your circumstances change. If your circumstances are still the same a year after you make your Will, put a note in your diary to review it again in 12 months.
5 Key Life Events
The key times to review your Will are:
When you marry, unless you have included a specific contemplation of marriage clause, any Will you made before your wedding will be revoked (legal speak for cancelled). This means that until you make a new Will the intestacy rules will apply and your new spouse or civil partner will inherit the first £270,000 of your personal wealth, but this might not be what you intend, especially if you have children from a previous relationship.
If you have a new baby it is important to set out what share of your estate you want them to receive, and who takes care of their gift if you were to die prematurely. If you have grandchildren, or if someone in your family or a close friend has a new baby, you may want to leave them a legacy (a gift of money) or a specific gift of a personal possession to remember you. Appointing guardians to look after your children is sensible because it means that you choose their carers if they were to lose both of their parents. You can also decide at what age any children should inherit. Many people think that 18 is too young, so you can appoint trustees to hold onto their inheritance until they are more financially sensible.
3. Change of Executors
As time passes you may change your mind about who you would like to appoint as your Executors. If the Executors you chose are no longer willing or able to act, it’s time to review and update your Will. You may have appointed someone who has moved to a different country or a friend with whom you’ve lost touch, so making a change simply ensures that people you trust will deal with personal wealth and possessions as you would wish. If you don’t have a family member or friend who can take on the role, you may wish to appoint a professional executor instead. Ask your Will drafter for guidance.
4. New partner or a new home
When you meet the love of your life, or you purchase a property with a new partner, you should review your Will to make provision for them in the event of your death. This does not have to be an outright gift – you could allow them to live in your share of a shared home for life, but pass it on to others at a future point in time. If your partner depends on you it is sensible to consider how they would manage financially without you. It’s often a good idea to review your Will when you review of your finances and life assurance policies with a specialist adviser.
Unlike marriage, divorce does not cancel your Will. The law treats your former spouse in the same way as if they had died before you. If they are your executor this appointment is cancelled plus they would lose any gift made to them in your existing Will. You can make a new Will in anticipation of your divorce; you do not have to wait for the decree absolute.
(If you receive a large inheritance or win the lottery and your personal wealth is greater than the lifetime allowance of £325,000 you should also review your Will and your financial plans.)
If you would like advice about updating your Will, or making a new Will, please get in touch.