If you have already made a Will, then you are sensibly ahead of the game. But, how long ago did you make your Will, can you remember what your wishes were, when did you last read it, and is the original still safely stored?
Many people think that drawing up a Will is a once in a lifetime task but that is not how this estate-planning tool should be used.
As we all know, life can be unpredictable, and our relationships and preferences can change over time. So, if your Will was written some years ago, it is worth reviewing it to ensure the content still accurately reflects your wishes.
I usually recommend that my clients review their Wills routinely every 3-5 years. However, there are several life changes which should automatically trigger a Will review.
1. Change in Relationships
Family and romantic relationships can change considerably over time. The act of marriage will invalidate a Will unless that Will was made specifically in contemplation of marriage to a specified person. Alternatively, if you have separated from someone, you may no longer wish for your estranged spouse or former partner to benefit in the event of your death and wish to alter your Will to reflect this change in your relationship.
Perhaps your once-favourite nephew now rarely contacts you or you have rekindled a close friendship or reunited with a previously estranged family member and you wish to include them as beneficiaries. You may have remarried, bringing new, special family members into your life, or perhaps one of your chosen Executors or beneficiaries has sadly passed away before you. You may have had children and want to nominate Guardians or you could have been blessed with grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are not even listed in your will. You may have even acquired pets and want to ensure that you make provision for them when you are no longer around to look after them yourself.
Of course, as life moves forward, double-checking your estate planning documents won’t be at the forefront of your mind but significant changes in your family and personal life should trigger thoughts of a review.
2. Change of Fortune
If your estate has experienced a substantial increase or decrease in value, it’s sensible to reflect on whether your estate plan is still suitable in the circumstances. Are there tax consequences associated with your existing will? Do you want a charity to benefit from your increased wealth? Have you bought or sold a home, or did you start a new business? Perhaps you have acquired new personal belongings that you want to leave to someone special. Even if the changes to your estate are small, you may wish to change how your assets are distributed when you die.
3. Change in Law
The law is constantly evolving, and you want to be aware of how those changes may affect you and your beneficiaries. As wealth, assets and personal circumstances change, it is worth exploring legal strategies for efficient tax planning. Is a protective property trust something which would be useful to you and is it a good idea to explore if you can mitigate the effect of care costs on your Estate?
The best way to do this is to stay informed and consult a solicitor specialising in estate planning. So, if you haven’t thought about your Will for a while then take a look and start the process by asking yourself a few key questions:
- Is there anyone important in my life missing from my Will?
- Have my relationships changed and is that adequately reflected in my Will?
- Is someone listed who shouldn’t be any longer?
- Does your Will adequately provide what should happen if your beneficiaries do not survive to benefit – what happens in your Will in that event?
- Have the circumstances of anyone named in your Will changed e.g. is your Executor still alive and still capable of serving in the role. Do you still trust them or would someone else now be a
- more suitable choice? Are there adequate replacement Executors named in your Will if your Executors are unwilling or unable to act?
- How do you feel now about the way your assets are to be divided?
- Has your wealth significantly increased or decreased and how will that impact on the wishes you have in your Will?
- Are the amounts of the specific legacies you have made still suitable or do you need to adjust the amounts specified to reflect your wealth now?
If any questions or changes spring to mind, then I recommend making an appointment for a professional to review your Will. If changes are needed you can create a new Will or a codicil that is added to the original document to reflect the changes needed (depending on which is most appropriate).
The benefit of a Will review is that you can take the opportunity to identify changes needed or, if none are required, enjoy the peace of mind that comes with confirming your affairs are in order.
When to Review your Will
- Upon birth or adoption of a child, grandchild or other family member
- Following a marriage or divorce
- When someone named in your will passes away
- When children, grandchildren or other heirs reach adulthood
- Upon changes in your executor, guardian, and/or trustee’s circumstances
- When the value of your estate significantly increases or decreases
- You start a business
- Changes in the law
- Following the sale or purchase of property
- Following diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness
If you are not sure whether your Will is still fit for purpose, then we recommend you seek a review with a professional. I am offering Free Will Reviews throughout Summer 2020, so why not ask me to take a look and deliver peace of mind to you.
Explore Richard Nelson’s Will and Probate service for more information.