Estate Planning

When should I update my Will?

If you have a Will, the chances are it may have been some time since you last reviewed it. There are a number of key milestones in your life which certainly prompt the need to check all is as it should be. Steve Wright, our Estates Director, explains what life events should motivate you to take a look at your Will.

Your Will is a living document, and by that we mean that it must be active, up-to-date and regularly reviewed so that it properly reflects your current circumstances. If you’ve recently faced some important changes in your life, such as marriage, divorce or having children, it’s worth taking a fresh look at your Will to ensure it echoes your wishes. In particular, the following five situations are good opportunities to review things:

Getting married

When you get married or enter into a civil partnership in England and Wales your Will immediately becomes invalid and the Rules of Intestacy apply. This generally means that your spouse or civil partner and (depending upon the value of your assets) also your children or other direct descendants will inherit your estate in its entirety. Things are slightly more complicated in Scotland and involve legal rights provided under Scottish law. In both instances it’s important to keep your Will updated to make sure all of those who you’d like to benefit from your estate are included. If you are remarrying or entering a new partnership, you may need to think carefully about how you want to protect your estate for any children from previous relationships.

Having children or grandchildren

As new children or grandchildren arrive in your family, you’ll need to make sure they are properly mentioned and included in your Will – this doesn’t happen automatically. With young children it’s also crucial to consider at what age you’d like them to inherit, give any instructions for guardians and note any specific trust provisions.

Becoming divorced

Divorce alters the terms of your Will and means that your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner cannot inherit your estate or act as a Trustee or Executor. Your other beneficiaries, if you’ve named them, would then automatically inherit. If none are listed then the Rules of Intestacy apply. If you are in the process of divorce think carefully about your Will as part of your plans. Ahead of your decree absolute your Will remains valid, so you need to take action to ensure that your spouse or partner doesn’t inherit if you pass away before the official separation occurs.

Receiving any inheritance

Receiving a large inheritance from a relative or friend may mean you need to review your situation. There could be significant tax implications to be aware of, or your wishes may change to encompass more beneficiaries allowing you to share your wealth with a wider group.

Purchasing property or living together

If you buy a property, or move in with your partner, you’ll need to think about your Will carefully. If you’re unmarried, or not in a civil partnership and pass away, your partner won’t necessarily have any entitlement to your shared home. This can create an upsetting situation but making some provisions in your Will can ensure that your loved one is protected.

Having an up-to-date Will in place is essential. Getting everything in order offers protection for your loved ones and ensures that any assets pass on to those you want to inherit in line with your wishes.

To discuss any aspect of your Will, or estate plans, please contact your nearest office.