Insight

Reasons to review your will

The importance and benefits of having a Will is often (and quite correctly) well documented.

What can sometimes be overlooked is the importance of reviewing arrangements one already has in place for an existing Will.

One’s circumstances can change necessitating a review of their Will.  These can include the following:

  • Estate Tax/planning – A Will can be an efficient estate/tax planning vehicle for the benefit of your Estate/heirs. The tax regime is complex and may have changed since the current Will was signed.  It is therefore sensible to review the provisions of the Will to ensure it is compliant and efficient from an Inheritance Tax and/or Capital Gains tax perspective. 
  • Marriage/formation of civil partnership – Marriage/civil partnership automatically revokes a previous Will (unless expressly made in contemplation of that particular union). It is therefore vital upon marriage/civil partnership to review the terms of one’s Will and/or make a new one altogether. 
  • Divorce/dissolution of civil partnership – Unlike marriage/formation of a civil partnership, a divorce or dissolution of civil partnership does not automatically cancel a previous Will. It does have the effect of automatically removing the former spouse/civil partner from the Will who is treated as if they had died in the Testator’s lifetime.  It is important to be aware, however, that this only operates upon the Decree Absolute.  This can have the (usually unwanted) consequence that if one of the divorcing couple passes away before the Decree Absolute has been issued the other spouse/civil partner can still inherit their Estate! 
  • Administrative errors – Signed Wills can contain typos/administrative errors or perhaps the signing provision is defective in some way. Expensive Court litigation can ensue due to clerical errors in a Will which hopefully can be avoided through a review and follow up rectification action. 
  • Change of beneficiary’s circumstances – There may be beneficiaries in your Will who have passed away or with whom you no longer have any contact or who, for other reasons, you simply no longer wish to benefit.You may also wish to alter how beneficiaries receive funds.  For example, there may a beneficiary in your Will whose situation has since changed and for whom a more protective and flexible mechanism, such as a trust, would be suitable. 
  • Change in your own circumstances – Your own circumstances (other than just your marital status) may have changed since the Will was made. 

For example:

  • You may now have children or grandchildren or other relatives who were not around when the current Will was made and for whom you now wish to make provision.
  • There may also be assets specifically gifted in the current Will which you no longer own.
  • You may have a guardianship provision in the Will which is no longer relevant as your children are all over 18.
  • You may now own assets abroad and so the Will should be amended to ensure it is consistent with any other foreign Wills.
  • Location of Will – It is also worth double-checking the location of your original Will. The firm which holds/held it may no longer be around and so the whereabouts of the Will may have changed. 

Sometimes amendments to a Will do not necessitate a new Will to be made, although this is often advisable, and an addendum, known as a ‘Codicil’, can be made.

It is recommended that a Will is reviewed at least every 3 -5 years.

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