Many people feel that once they have completed the task of preparing a Will, there is nothing further for them to do. They think they can live out the rest of their lives knowing that on their death their family and friends have been adequately provided for. However, that is not always the case, and in fact there are several factors throughout our lives that should prompt us to re-examine and review our Wills. We would ordinarily advise our clients to review their Wills at least every five years, and the following reasons explain why:
Births, deaths or marriages
It is important to review the wording contained in your Will when your family circumstances change, such as after the birth of a child, the death of a relative, a marriage or a divorce. These are all important life events that occur, but it is important to note the following:
- If your Will specifically refers to your children or grandchildren by their names as beneficiaries, any new or additional children or grandchildren born after the date of your Will may not be included automatically.
- If you have had children since the date that your Will was prepared, you may wish to consider amending it to appoint guardians to step in if you or your partner pass away while the children are under the age of 18.
- It is important to re-assess your Will after the death of a family member or friend, since you may wish to name others to inherit in their place.
- Many people do not realise that if you marry or enter into a Civil Partnership after you have created your Will, unless the Will was prepared in contemplation of that marriage or Civil Partnership, the Will will be automatically revoked on the date that your vows are exchanged.
- You may also have entered into a new relationship since your Will was drafted. It is important to note that if your new partner is not mentioned in your Will, they may not receive anything from your estate in the event of your death. If you pass away without making a Will, the rules of intestacy do not currently account for unmarried partners, even if you are co-habiting.
- If you get divorced or have your Civil Partnership dissolved after your Will was completed, and your ex-spouse or ex-partner were mentioned as a beneficiary of the Will, on your death the Will will be interpreted as if your ex-spouse or ex-partner had died on the date of the divorce/ dissolution. This could mean that part of your estate is left to pass under the intestacy rules (if you have not added beneficiaries to inherit in substitution), and of course if you parted on good terms you may wish to make provision for them anyway.
You wish to ensure that pets are cared for
When considering the terms of your Will, and ensuring that your family and friends are provided for, some people forget that after their death, a home will need to be found for any pets that they own., Many would consider their pets to be part of the family and have specific wishes as to who they would like their pets to be given to. This can usually be dealt with using guidance in a side letter of wishes to the Will. However if you wish to leave any cash gifts to the person you would wish to house your pets, this is certainly a reason to review the terms of your Will.
You inherit additional assets
As you may be aware, after your death inheritance tax liability falls due from your estate IF your estate is worth more than the ‘nil rate band allowance’ (currently £325,000 for single people and £650,000 for married couples).
Therefore, if at any point during your lifetime you inherit assets, which take your estate value over the amount that can pass free of inheritance tax, it would be sensible to review your Will and discuss this with us since we may be able to assist you with some tax planning options to mitigate inheritance tax and thus save your family or friends money after the date of your death.
You have acquired property overseas or are thinking of making a permanent move abroad
Many Wills that we draft cater for assets held in the UK only. However, if you have acquired property either within Europe or further afield, it is sensible to review your Will to check whether any additional provisions can be added to cover those assets as well. Ordinarily we would advise our clients to have Wills prepared in each country (and under each jurisdiction) where assets are held by them. However, depending on the country, the value of the assets held, and whether the assets are real property or simply cash accounts may affect whether Wills prepared by us can also cover worldwide assets.
In addition, if you are considering making a permanent move abroad, this may affect your UK position with regards to inheritance tax, and it is worth reviewing your Will or speaking to us to check whether this will have any tax implications on your estate after your death.
You have had a change of heart or wish to make provision for charities
Another important reason to review your Will is if you have left a gift to a close friend or family member but have now decided that you would prefer that gift to go to someone else. If the change required is fairly minimal, it may mean that we can deal with this for you by preparing a Codicil rather than a whole new Will. If this is the case, our preparation charges will be much lower so this is always worth considering.
You may have been affected by an illness or been helped by a charity during your lifetime, and wish to make a gift to them after your death. If this is the case, there may also be inheritance tax saving reasons for you to consider if you choose to make gifts to a charity under your Will.
Securing your assets for the future
You may wish to consider future estate planning options to try and avoid your assets being used up during your lifetime to cover nursing care or care home fees. For this reason, it may be worth considering setting up a trust arrangement, and although this is separate from your Will, it is worth considering nonetheless.
Find out more
If you have been affected by any of the above since your Will was prepared, whether it was prepared by us or elsewhere, or if you have already reviewed your Will and would like to make any amendments to it, please contact Nick Giles – Managing Partner, Emily Hanley – Paralegal or any member of the Edwin Coe Private Client Team.
If you aren’t receiving our legal updates directly to your mailbox, please sign up now
Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.
Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.