A Will is one of the most important documents of a person’s life because it gives you control over how you dispose of your assets after you die. Without it, your assets could go to people you do not know or like, leaving your beloved family members and relatives without a share of your estate. Even if you have made a Will, your loved ones may still get nothing from your estate if you do not have your Will updated to reflect your changing personal and financial circumstances.
If your personal and financial circumstances change significantly and you do not have a Will in place, you may wish to have one prepared for you to reflect these changes.
Major life events, which necessitate changes in your Will, include the following:
- Marriage or civil partnership
If you have made a Will prior to your marriage or civil partnership, the marriage or civil partnership automatically invalidates the terms of your existing Will. This means that your Will is invalid and, unless a new Will is drawn up, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy after you die. The rules of intestacy mean that your property is shared out according to set rules, where your spouse or civil partner is the first to inherit what remains in your estate. This creates a problem if you wish to leave your estate to your children or other family members instead of leaving it to your new spouse or civil partner. If that is the case, you need to make a new Will in order to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.
- Divorce or dissolution of civil partnership
Getting a divorce or dissolving your civil partnership does not automatically invalidate your Will. If your marriage or civil partnership ends, your Will works as if your spouse or civil partner had died on the date when the divorce or the dissolution of the civil partnership was issued. This means that if your spouse or civil partner was named as an Executor or Trustee in your Will, they are no longer able to fulfil this role. Further, any portion of your estate that you had left to them no longer takes effect unless you expressly state this, and it returns back to the residue of your estate passing to your Residuary Beneficiaries. Also, you may wish to take into account your stepchildren when updating your Will.
- Children and grandchildren
The birth or adoption of children or grandchildren may necessitate a change in your Will if you wish to provide for your new children or grandchildren in your Will.
- If your spouse or civil partner dies
If you had appointed your spouse or civil partner to be the Executor or Trustee in your Will and they die, you need to update your existing Will to remove them as the Executor or Trustee and include a new Executor or Trustee. Similarly, if your spouse or civil partner was the Beneficiary in your Will, you need to update your Will to remove them as the Beneficiary and include a new Beneficiary.
- If an Executor or Beneficiary named in your Will dies
If your chosen Executor in your Will dies, you need to update your existing Will to remove them as the Executor and add a new Executor. Likewise, if a beneficiary in your Will dies, you need to update your Will to remove this Beneficiary and include a new Beneficiary.
- Moving home
If you buy or sell your home or other property, you should review and update your existing Will if you already have one prepared. If you do not have a Will in place and you are purchasing a property, you should have a Will prepared for you to reflect this.
Similarly, if you acquire assets or property outside England and Wales, you need to update your Will to cover your assets and property located abroad. If you have already made a foreign Will in respect of your foreign assets and property, you need to ensure that your existing Will does not revoke any previous ones you have made.
- Start or sell your business
If you start your own business or sell your business, you should review and update your existing Will if you already have one in place. If you do not have a Will in place and you are setting up a business, you should have a Will drawn up for you to reflect this.
- Significant changes in estate value
Fluctuations in a person’s wealth are common and if the size of your estate has grown or shrunk significantly, you may wish to update your existing Will to reflect these changes in your financial circumstances.
- Inheriting assets or money
If you have recently inherited a large legacy, you need to update your existing Will or have a new Will drawn up for you to add the new legacy. There might be tax consequences that you need to take into account.
Once you have updated your Will or had a new one drawn up for you, ensure to tell your Executor where your Will is stored so that they are able to locate your Will when it is necessary.
It is good practice to review your Will regularly, at least every three to five years, or after any major changes in your life to ensure that it reflects your wishes and changing personal and financial circumstances.
Ensuring that your Will reflects accurately any changes in your personal and financial circumstances could save your family members and relatives a lot of the complications and hassle that an outdated Will might entail. Further, a Will that reflects your wishes can ensure that your assets go to the people you want to benefit from your estate, that your children are looked after by people you trust and that people of your choosing administer your estate after you die.