10 Most Common Times You Need to Review Your Will

Having a will isn’t enough, Darren McGuiness, solicitor at Harold Stock & Co, looks at ten important changes in life that mean you need to review your will.

Two Thirds Of People Don’t Have A Will

According to a YouGov survey last year, nearly two thirds of the population don’t have a will. This is worryingly high, as dying without a will, or dying intestate, can be a major cause of pain, upset and stress for families who are already dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

However, even if you have made a will, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are high, dry and happy.

At Harold Stock & Co, we regularly deal with situations where a loved one possessed a will, but that will is out of date and does not take into account changes in circumstance, such as divorce, the birth of new children or grandchildren, or a major change in financial situation.

In these circumstances, the effects can be just as painful as if there was no will at all, and the same upsets result – families are torn apart, arguments ensue and the repercussions can be costly and last a lifetime.

Last week, on our blog, we highlighted the importance of having a will. This week, I want to look at how important it is to review your will and when that review should take place.

How Often Should You Review Your Will?

Look at the government website, and you will find an official recommendation to review your will every five years.

Our experience of working with real people is that this isn’t often enough!

People’s lives change. So any future planning, such as making a will, must adapt and take that change into account.

My suggestion has always been to review your will every year. But reviewing doesn’t mean you have to send it to a solicitor, like me, and pay for the privilege of being told it is all fine.

Reviewing can literally mean looking at your will and seeing if anything has changed. Any major changes in your life situation need to be reflected in your will, which is where it is important to talk to someone like me.

When doing your review, look out for these 10 most common situation that mean a change may be required.

1. Marriage

The law recognises that your new spouse is now your main beneficiary. This can be advantageous, but what happens if you have children or beneficiaries named in a will prior to your marriage? Are they still your beneficiaries too? The answer is no. Your new marriage supersedes any prior arrangements you have made, including previous wills.

So, if you want your other beneficiaries to keep their inheritance, you are going to need a new will.

2. Divorce

In the event of a divorce, most people don’t want to leave money or certain rights to an ex upon their death, or risk that the ex will contest their will. To that end, if you are divorced since you last signed a will, you will need to consider what changes your will might require.

Of course, regardless of your planning, your ex may still attempt to contest the document. However, a solicitor can make some suggestions about how to limit their chances of success.

3. Inheritance

If a rich relative or parent passes away and leaves you with a large, unexpected sum of money, or even, perhaps, a house, it can change how your assets are balanced and how they can be divided up on your death.

It may be that you would still want to pass any assets to your heirs in exactly the same manner as before, or, with your newfound financial flexibility, you might be planning to divide up your assets in a slightly different.

Whatever the situation, it’s worth talking to an expert who can help to ensure that your increased assets are divided up as you would like them to be, rather than fought over in the courts.

4. New Children, Grandchildren, Friends or Relatives

Generally speaking, if your will outlines that your estate is to be divided equally among your children, then even children that are born after the document is signed will be included. In other words, they will get a share of your estate, just as if they had been born when the document was drafted.  

However, if you have had additional children since you first drafted your will, it is worthwhile taking a look to make sure your will is worded correctly and to consider reviewing it with a solicitor to see if any alterations need to be made.

This is also the case where you have had children more than one partner.

With any changes to your will, a solicitor will be more familiar with the law than you are, and will be able to provide you with valuable guidance and suggestions

5. Death Of A Spouse Or Relative

Generally speaking, if you’ve had your will drafted by a solicitor of good standing, it should be written to prevent any issues, and to ensure there are backups for everything. In the sad event of the loss of a spouse, child or other relative, your assets might go to another relative.

It pays to review your will, if your spouse or loved one has died. You may feel differently about things if that were to happen, and you might want to distribute your assets in a different manner. You also might need to provide a new backup recipients in your will.

6. Changes In Circumstances Or Health

It’s said that the two things that guaranteed in life are death and taxes. In my experience, this is wrong, change is also a certainty as well.

We can not guarantee our health throughout our life, just as we can’t guarantee that everything will remain exactly the same for the next ten years.

Any changes in circumstance, illness diagnosis, or move of any kind will affect our situation. Best to make sure your will is still current and reflective of your situation.

7. To Assist In Tax Planning

It is important to note that if you come into a large sum of money, you may want to consider drafting a trust that will help soften the blow of estate taxes owed after your death.

If you have larger sums, or a substantial asset, such as a house, to pass on, you should talk to a solicitor and an accountant to make sure you have the right plan in place to give the maximum benefit to your loved ones.

8. To Ensure The Assets You Have Worked For Go To The Right People

Often, people draft their wills when they are first married or when they are young. While it’s good to start planning at an early age, it’s important to bear in mind that things change.

Most people want to their hard earned assets to go to the right people, such as people who will appreciate them.

So, for example, you might not want your pride and joy classic “sports car” to go someone who will simply sell it, or even scrap it, depending on it’s condition! But, rather, to go to someone who will appreciate the hours of welding that are needed to keep it on the road.

9. To Exclude Potential Beneficiaries

Alternatively, sad as it is, our own tastes and friendships do change as time goes on.

Perhaps you and your brother were inseparable in your 20s, but now you can’t stand the sight of him, and you want to make sure he ends up with nothing!

If this is the case, and you’ve had a total change of heart, for whatever reason, it makes sense to review your will and consult with a solicitor.

10. You Want To Account For Charitable Giving

Later in life, many individuals become attached to certain charities or organisations, that require financial support. Whether it’s a donkey sanctuary, a church or the local cricket club, if you want these parties to receive a legacy of money or some other asset that will benefit them upon your death, a formal change to your will is in order.

By regularly reviewing your will, you can make sure it still provides the correct cover and remains relevant to benefit your loved ones and those who you want to benefit on your passing.

If you have any doubts or questions about your will, talk to us at Harold Stock & Co.

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