Many people tend to think a Will is a one-time document that can be stored away and only opened after their death. However, as we go through life our relationships and circumstances change.
Claire-Marie Selwood who is a solicitor working in our Wills and Probate team said: “It is very important to review your Will regularly to make sure it still reflects your wishes.”
“As a guide, we tend to recommend that our clients review their Wills every three to five years. Our personal circumstances change throughout our lives so it makes sense that you should keep your estate under review from time to time.”
Claire-Marie recommends that you update your Will or make a new Will at certain stages in your life, including the following:
When you marry or enter into a civil partnership, any Will made beforehand will be revoked by the act of marriage/civil partnership, rendering it invalid. Therefore, it is important to review your Will and have it updated to reflect your new relationship. One way around this is to include a specific clause in your Will naming your future spouse/civil partner and stating that your Will will not be revoked in those circumstances.
A new child
Having a valid Will is important if you have children aged under 18. You can appoint Legal Guardians in your Will stating who should care for your children if they do not have a living parent at the time of your death.
This gives peace of mind and can avoid any disagreements within the family as to who is best placed to care for the children.
In the same vein, when your children reach the age of 18, you should review your Will to make sure any inheritance you are leaving them reflects your wishes.
You may prefer that your children receive their full inheritance at the age of 21 or 25 instead of 18 and you can specify this within the Will.
You may also want to review your Will with the birth of a grandchild too.
Buying a new property is usually a huge investment which will change the value of your estate. You may well want to review how you would like your estate distributed upon your death and have this outlined in your Will.
In most cases full ownership of your home will pass to the joint owner of your property if you own it as joint tenants. This will usually be your spouse or civil partner.
However, if you have children from a previous marriage it’s highly likely you will ultimately want to leave your share of the property you may like the property to pass to them. At the same time, you will also want to make sure your spouse/civil partner/cohabitee can remain living in the property after your death. In this situation you will need to set up a Will Trust and the property must be owned as tenants in common.
Often Wills get forgotten when going through a divorce. However, it is crucial that your Will is reviewed as a divorce does not revoke a Will that was made when you were married. Your ex-partner is in fact treated as if they had died when your marriage or civil partnership was dissolved.
If your Will doesn’t specify what happens in the event of your ex-partner’s death, the rules of intestacy could apply to your estate and this could mean your estate is not distributed as you anticipate.
It is also worth remembering that divorce proceedings can take several months, so while you are still married, even if you are separated your spouse will still benefit from your estate should you die before the divorce is finalised. Therefore, Claire-Marie would recommend changing your Will as soon as possible.
If someone named in your Will dies
If someone named in your Will such as an Executor/Trustee, Guardian or Beneficiary dies you should review your Will and consider how this affects your estate. In addition, if you change your mind about who you would like to appoint as an Executor or Trustee, or if they are unable act in the role, due to illness or suffering from mental incapacity, you should amend your Will.
Changing your Will
Claire-Marie said: “My colleagues and I are here to help you review and update your Will when necessary. There are various ways we can make changes, but we would advise against altering an original Will document at home as this could call into question the validity of the Will itself.”
“Once a Will has been revoked or changed, we would suggest that you destroy the original so as to avoid any confusion.”
“If you are making a small change, such as adding a legacy or changing executors, then we can prepare a document called a Codicil. This is a separate signed and witnessed document that is stored with your Will.
This is useful where there is a small change such as appointing a new or replacement Executor.
Alternatively, you may prefer that we prepare a new Will incorporating a number of small minor changes.”
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This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.