Dealing with your Will once and then forgetting about it can be likened to having just one dental check-up in your entire life
We recommend that you review your Will every 3-5 years. This is to make sure that your Will still serves your current wishes. We also recommend reviewing your planning when there is a change in your personal circumstances, or when a beneficiary has a change in circumstances.
For a recent example of why, we need only look at the Will of Joyce Appleby. In this case a dispute arose over Joyce’s Will as she had left a share of her estate to her son Don. Joyce stipulated that if Don died before her then “his wife Cindy” would inherit instead. Don later divorced Cindy and remarried Maya. He died before his mother who subsequently died and a dispute arose over whether her estate should pass to Cindy or Maya. The basis for Maya’s argument was that as his wife at the time of Don’s death the estate should pass to her as Cindy no longer matched the description of “his wife”.
Ultimately Maya lost and it was decided that the half share of Joyce’s £840,000 estate should pass to Don’s ex-wife, Cindy. This would certainly not have been Joyce’s intention and it proves that inactivity can prove very costly to an estate.
You should review your estate planning upon any of the following events:
If you marry, your existing Will is automatically revoked by law unless it was written in contemplation of that marriage and an appropriate clause included in the Will to confirm this.
If you divorce, any gifts in your Will to your former spouse or civil partner are void, as are any appointments of them as an Executor, Trustee, or Guardian. After the divorce, your financial circumstances may have changed or you may want to reconsider how other beneficiaries will be provided for now you aren’t providing for your spouse.
You should also review your Will planning if a beneficiary of yours divorces or is in the process of going through a divorce. This avoids disputes like we have seen above in the Joyce Appleby case.
3. Changes in law
It is important to keep abreast of changes in law that may affect your estate planning. This is especially important if you have a large estate that will be potentially liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT) because if tax law changes and your Will is not updated, then your estate may end up paying more IHT than necessary upon your death. In 2017 there was a large change to tax law that introduced the additional Residential IHT allowance where if your home is gifted to your children (or other direct descendants), your estate would benefit from greater tax efficiency. If you haven’t updated your will to take advantage of this new allowance, then you ought to contact a Will Writer for a review as soon as possible.
4. General Changes in Circumstances
We also recommend that you review your Will after other general changes in your circumstances, such as when a beneficiary dies, or has children of their own. Relationships change over the years and unfortunately once close friends and family may drift away, so it is important to make sure your Will always reflects your current wishes. In any case, please make sure you seek professional advice on the matter first.
On a happier note, perhaps you have repaired a relationship with a formerly distant child and now want to change your Will in their favour.
If it has been a while since you’ve reviewed your Will, or if any of your circumstances have changed then maybe it is time to reconsider the content of your Will.
This post was written in conjunction with Siobhan Smith of the Society of Will Writers.