Preparing a will is an important part of managing your estate as it clearly sets out your wishes regarding how you would like your estate to be distributed after you have died.
Unfortunately, almost two-thirds of the UK population died without a will, leaving their estate to be administered in accordance with the strict rules of intestacy.
Even if you have a will in place, it is very important that continue to review it throughout your life to make sure it remains effective and reflects your wishes.
Deciding when to review your will can be difficult. However, to help you plan ahead we have prepared some checkpoints to help you decide whether your will needs updating.
Your wishes have changed
The main purpose of a will is to outline your wishes after death. It is your final statement. It names the people you would like to manage your affairs after your death (your executors) and how your estate is to be distributed. It may also include care provisions for children or vulnerable adults.
Some of these things may change as you get older and as a result, it is important that your will is changed to reflect this.
You have married or divorced
Most people do not realise that getting married automatically revokes any existing will. This means that if you die after getting married and you haven’t made a new will your assets will be distributed under the rules of intestacy. This means that your husband, wife or civil partner will usually inherit the majority of your estate.
Whilst this may be what you want, it isn’t always the case. If you have children from a previous relationship, for example, you may want all or some of your estate to go to them. It also means that if you have separated from your partner, they may still benefit from your estate after death.
Conversely, getting divorced does not revoke your will. It is, therefore, important to review your will after a divorce to ensure it still reflects your wishes.
There are new children or grandchildren in your family
If your children are still young, it is important to appoint guardians for them in the event of the premature death of you and your spouse, civil partner or partner.
Welcoming a new member to your family can be an exciting experience. You may want to change your will to make provision for them.
It is possible to make similar provisions for future family members as well. However, even if you have done this, it’s a good idea to check everything is in order after their birth.
Your financial situation has changed
The size and nature of your estate is likely to change throughout your life and so this should be reflected in your will. If you purchase or inherit certain assets that you wish to pass on to certain family members, or if the overall size of your estate increases, then you should review the provisions of your will.
A lot of will disputes arise over the distribution of the estate, so you must balance these factors to ensure your will reflects your wishes.
To mitigate a substantial tax bill
As house prices rise, more and more families are finding that the estate of their loved one is subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT). As this is charged at a rate of 40 per cent, it can have a significant impact on beneficiaries, so it is important to take legal advice to see whether or not there will be inheritance tax to pay on your death and whether or not any steps can be taken to avoid this.
Time to review your will?
If you are considering updating your will, we strongly recommend that you seek professional legal advice. To find out how our team can help, please contact us.