Karen Yates – Head of the Private Client team – on the top five reasons why you should update your Will

So, question: When did you make your Will? The 80’s? 90’s? 00’s?

Clients are often surprised to find that their Wills are older than they realise. Time passes so quickly that before we know it our circumstances have changed and our Wills are out of date.

For example, it’s common to appoint your siblings as your executors when your children are young but, as time moves on, and those people are the same age as you or older, they may not be the right person anymore.  It may now be appropriate for your adult children to be your executors, particularly if they are the ones to benefit from your Estate.

Births, deaths and marriages are the key triggers for a review. You would be surprised at the number of people who have come to see me to because they have remarried, without realising that the marriage has revoked their existing Wills and that they are currently without a valid Will in place. I saw some clients recently who had married 20 years ago and hadn’t made new Wills and had thought for the last 20 years that their existing Wills were still effective.  They were shocked when I explained to them that when they married they had cancelled their old Wills.

You may have given sizeable cash gifts under your Will, but if your Estate has decreased, those gifts may no longer be appropriate.  Similarly, you may have made a specific gift of an item or a property to somebody that has increased in value significantly and that gift may now be disproportionate in relation to the rest of your Estate.

And what about common law spouses? This is something we talk about all the time as there is no such thing.  If you cohabit, you are not legally recognised as a couple under the law relating to Wills.  Therefore, if you do not make provision for your partner, he or she will not automatically benefit from your Estate.

But it is not just changes in personal circumstances that should prompt you to review your Will. The law changes all the time, and issues that would not have been considered 20 years ago are now very much at the forefront of peoples’ minds.  For example, you may not have had a business when you made your Will, and your Will may not provide proper tax mitigation or succession provisions for your business.

So here they are, my top five reasons to update your Will:

  1. After a birth. Once you have a child or a new grandchild it is important to ensure they are properly provided for under your Will.
  2. Marriage/divorce.  Wills made prior to marriage are automatically cancelled upon that marriage.  Similarly, if you are divorcing or have divorced, your Will may provide for your ex-spouse and will need to be updated.
  3. Moving house or buying a house. You may have thought previously that you didn’t have anything to leave so there was no reason to have a Will.  A property is a major asset and if you have life insurance that would pay off your mortgage in the event of your death, that is a significant asset that needs to be dealt with properly.
  4. After a death. If someone you named as a beneficiary under your Will has died, you should review your Will as it may need to be updated to remove their name or to ensure that the assets pass to their children if appropriate. Similarly, if your executor has passed away, it is extremely important that your Will is updated to ensure that you have an executor specified.
  5. Change in financial circumstances. If the value of your Estate increase or decreases, if you start a business or sell a business you will need to revise your Will to ensure it is up to date and as tax efficient as possible.

To sum up, reviewing your Will regularly provides peace of mind and ensures that your wishes will be properly reflected in the event of your death.

Rest assured, this can be done remotely in the current climate, and do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss how we can help. You can email me via karen.yates@dbf-law.co.uk or call me on 0161 832 3304.

 

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