Updated: Mar 30
Firstly, congratulations on being in the one third of the adult population who has taken the sensible step to write their Will. So, you've had your Will prepared, you've signed and dated it in the presence of two independent witnesses and have placed that important document somewhere safe. Phew, that's one less thing to worry about.
It is easy and natural to then put this to the back of your mind. You've made your Will and so don't need to think about it again. However, events can occur, often outside of your control that may mean you need to review and possibly make changes to your Will otherwise it may no longer meet with your wishes.
Reviewing your Will and keeping it up-to-date, is just as important as making your Will in the first place.
When should you consider revising your Will?
After a birth
Maybe you have had a new child or grandchild or even a niece or nephew to whom you would want to benefit and so it will be important to update your Will so that they are included. Even if you already have some children and grandchildren specified in the Will, additional children and grandchildren may not automatically be added and so you should check this. If you have just had your first child, then you may want to consider appointing legal guardians of your children in your Will, so that in the event of your death your wishes as to who should look after your children are known.
Any Will made prior to a marriage will be automatically revoked (cancelled) upon the marriage or civil partnership taking place, unless special provision was included in your original Will. It is best to check otherwise if a new Will is not made then you will die intestate and the law will dictate who is to inherit and this may not be aligned to your wishes.
When dealing with a divorce people may not have considered that they need to amend their Will. It is unlikely that you would want to continue to make your former spouse a major beneficiary of your Will. Once you are divorced, any gift in your Will to your former spouse will be cancelled so that they do not receive anything but the rest of your Will remains valid. This could well include previous in-laws who you would no longer wish to benefit or stepchildren.
Whilst being separated, you may wish to change the way you own certain property, such as property owned jointly with your estranged spouse, to stop them inheriting it automatically if you were to die before any divorce proceedings were finalised.
Very often, your house will be your largest and most valuable asset. Therefore your Will should be reviewed if you move home. It may be necessary to discuss how your property is owned and whether you need any protection from costs such as care homes fees and the overall value of the estate. If a second property is purchased you may want to leave this to different beneficiaries. You may also want to consider your overall Inheritance Tax position and utilising the Residence Nil Rate Band.
Following a Death or incapacity
If someone you had named as a beneficiary in your Will has died, you should review your Will as it may need to be changed to remove their name and to state who will now receive this inheritance. Also if a named executor on your Will passes away it will be necessary to specify a different executor. This person may have been appointed as a guardian too and so you will want to change this so that you can be certain that your chosen person(s) is appointed to look after your children.
It may well be that someone named in your Will has lost capacity since the Will was prepared. If so, then they may no longer be able to act in their role as executor, trustee or guardian and you may wish to amend these roles.
With the new tax year just around the corner it’s time to think about what you may wish to achieve with your finances and estate in the coming year and to undertake a review to ascertain the best way to achieve your goals. Has your estate changed significantly since your Will was last reviewed? Have you acquired any business or agricultural assets or Inherited money? If so, it may be sensible to review things with as the inheritance tax regime that applies to your estate may have changed since the Will was drawn and there may be tax benefits of making amendments to the Will at this stage. If the value of your assets go up or down you will need to revise your Will to ensure it is up to date.