Signing a Will is a fantastic feeling. As solicitors, we see first-hand the sense of achievement and relief all rolled up into one single moment when a Will is signed. However, it is important not just to write your Will and forget about it. You can, and should, review your Will regularly.
Why should I review my Will?
Changes in your circumstances or those of your beneficiaries could render the terms of your Will inappropriate or even invalid. If your Will is not up to date, your family will be left to deal with the consequences. This unnecessary stress and worry will only be made worse if your out of date Will means that they suffer financially or in the worst-case scenario are left with nothing at all.
The costs of challenging the distribution of a deceased’s estate can be substantial. Your loved ones could be left with the tough choice of deciding whether it is worth bringing a claim and spending thousands in legal fees in the process.
Reviewing and updating your Will regularly ensures that the terms continue to reflect your wishes and your estate passes to those who you intend to benefit.
How often should I review and update my Will?
You should review your Will whenever your personal or financial circumstances change or at least every 5 years!
Even if your family have not been through any major life changes, your Will may still be out of date due to changes in the law or inheritance tax. While your wishes might be the same, these changes may necessitate a Will update to ensure your family get the maximum amount of benefit from your estate.
For example, the introduction of the new Residence Nil Rate Band in 2017 offers a valuable additional inheritance tax relief for individuals with children and could save up to £70,000; however, to claim the relief your Wills must be structured to meet certain conditions. If you made a Will before 2017, you may need to review your Will and take some inheritance tax planning advice.
When to update your Will – A Checklist
The following important events might prompt you to take action and update your Will:
* A birth in the family. For example, a child or grandchild. Parents can also use their Wills to appoint legal guardians for their children.
* You are getting married. This is particularly important if you have children from a previous relationship.
* You are divorcing or have separated from your partner. You will likely want to update your Will to reduce the risk of your partner inheriting your estate and becoming an executor.
* You have recently received an inheritance. An increase in the size of your estate may change your wishes on who you want to inherit. You may also now face an inheritance tax liability and want to take advice on your options to minimise this.
* You wish to change the individuals you have named as executors and trustees.
* You wish to change who you have named as legal guardians for your children. If you have minor children, the needs of your children and what they require in a legal guardian after your death will change as they grow.
* If any of your beneficiaries, executors or trustees have lost mental capacity. To ensure you know who will act, it is best to update the appointments of executors and trustees if mental capacity is lost. Similarly, with an incapacitated beneficiary, your Will can be updated to incorporate provisions to protect and manage their inheritance long term for their benefit.
* If any of your beneficiaries or executors have died. It is important to check that your Will contains default provisions to provide for the death of an executor or beneficiary.
* Your children have reached the age of 18. For example, you can now name them as executors or replacement executors.
* If you wish to change the amounts of any of the gifts in your Will or the gift recipient.
* If you wish to remove gifts entirely or add new gifts. For example, you might want to add a new charity gift after a diagnosis or remove a gift to someone you are no longer close to.
* You now own agricultural or business assets that may qualify for inheritance tax relief. The structure of your Will is important to maximise the inheritance tax savings to your estate.
* You have purchased property abroad. If you own foreign property, you will want to ensure your Will covers that property or whether you need a foreign Will.
* The value of your estate has substantially increased or decreased. Changes in the value of your estate will affect the amount your loved ones will receive and as a result may change your wishes.
* To check if your estate will benefit from or be adversely affected by any changes in the law or tax legislation. For example, the new Residence Nil Rate Band for inheritance tax (see above).
* If it has been 5 years since you last reviewed your Will.
Our checklist does not cover all the circumstances in which you should update your Will. It is merely indicative of the types of event that should prompt a review.
Do I need to change my Will if I move address?
If there are no other changes you wish to make to your Will other than changing your address, there is no need to update your Will. The address recorded in the Will should be correct as at the date you signed.
That said it might be sensible to review your Will if the move coincides with living with a new partner, buying the property jointly with another person or you have moved out of England and Wales. If you have bought property aboard, we recommend reviewing your Will.
If you move home and store your Will with your solicitor, remember to let them know your new address so they can update their records.
How do I make changes to an existing Will?
You should not amend your Will after it has been witnessed and signed. If you wish to change your existing Will, you have two options. You can either make a codicil to amend your Will or make a new Will.
A Codicil is a separate document used to amend the terms of the original Will. It must be signed in the same way as the Will. It is commonly only used for minor amendments such as changing the executors or adding or removing gifts.
Which is best a new Will or a codicil?
While codicils were historically popular, a new Will is often now the preferred route for several reasons. Firstly, word processing makes amending your Will as easy as preparing a codicil. Secondly, having your wishes set out in one document avoids the risk of a codicil being lost and your wishes being left unfulfilled. Finally, codicils can often make a Will difficult for your family to read and interpret after your death due to the layers of amendments.
If you would like our trusted solicitors to review your Will and provide advice, you can book a FREE WILL REVIEW here.
Alternatively, you can get further advice on making or updating your Will by getting in touch. Please click here for our contact details. We would be happy to help.
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