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Read more articles in: Blog, Private Client, Rachel Blackburn

Is it time to update your Will?

Your Will is one of the most important documents you’ll ever need, particularly if you own property, have assets you wish to pass on to specific family members, or have a complex family situation.

However, it is all too common that someone makes a Will and leaves it at that.

Updating your Will to reflect any new circumstances is the only definitive way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death.

While this isn’t a pleasant thought, it is an important consideration for anyone wanting to plan for their family’s future.

The time has come

How do you know when it’s time to update your Will?

We recommend a regular review period of five years, to ensure that everything is up to date and to catch any omissions from past reviews.

Beyond that, there are a number of situations where it is vital that you update your Will to make sure everything goes to plan.

You should always update your Will under these circumstances:

  • Marriage – Marriage will invalidate your previous Will, so you need to make a new one if you wish to leave a specific asset to someone other than your spouse.
  • Divorce – You may wish to add a new beneficiary if you no longer wish to leave your assets to your former partner or, alternatively, you might wish to formally leave your estate to your ex-spouse as they will not inherit under intestacy rules.
  • New assets – Your Will needs to account for all your assets, particularly if you want to pass something on to someone who is not a spouse or child.
  • Children or grandchildren – You’ll need to consider how you distribute your estate between any children or grandchildren, particularly if you have more than one.
  • Moving house – Check that your new property is not impacted by the sale of the old one and that it is left to the person of your choice.
  • Death – If someone named in your Will dies before you, you’ll need to decide who will receive the assets originally reserved for that person.
  • Business – Your Will should account for your business interests if you want to leave it to someone as part of your exit strategy.

What could an outdated Will mean for my family?

As a rule of thumb, it can be very risky to have an out-of-date or invalid Will.

It could result in disputes between beneficiaries or that a loved one is not provided for adequately.

This can cause significant distress and disruption as any contest to a Will can extend the estate administration period.

To illustrate this more effectively, consider an example of an outdated Will and a misunderstanding of how Wills apply, and its effects.

After marrying your spouse, you create a Will that divides your assets according to your wishes. You have a daughter with your spouse. You then separate after she is born – but do not divorce.

You acquire a meaningful piece of jewellery which you intend to pass on to your daughter.

However, you don’t update your Will to reflect this, and, upon your death, the asset passes to your estranged spouse instead.

While this may seem a trivial example, we can see the distress that this would cause to the daughter in this situation.

It also highlights the fact that separation can complicate Will arrangements, particularly where a divorce has not been obtained and so your former partner is still legally your spouse.

Ultimately, an outdated Will may result in your assets being distributed against your wishes, either with overlooked or unintended beneficiaries.

Updating your Will

There are two main ways that you can update your Will to reflect life changes or new assets. One is not necessarily better than the other, but they have different purposes:

  • Codicil – This can be used to make minor amendments to your existing Will and must be done with the same processes as a full Will.
  • Making a new Will – A new Will is often better for larger changes and it will need to state that it explicitly revokes all previous Wills.

Whichever way of updating your Will you choose, it is most important to get professional advice on ensuring your Will is airtight and legally valid.

What support is out there?

When you create or update your Will, you put a significant amount of trust in us and the person guiding your through the process.

As a reflection of this, we hold ourselves to the highest professional standards and formally commit to supporting vulnerable clients.

We’re proud to be able to offer support from senior team members who are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) – helping us help families plan for their future.

Furthermore, Rachel Blackburn, our Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services is a member of the Association of Lifetime Lawyers, the “gold standard” in providing vulnerable and older clients with sound legal advice, particularly regarding estate planning and Wills.

This support means that we can tailor our approach to your individual needs and make sure that your Will is accurate, valid and reflective of your needs and wishes.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Wills team to find out how we can help you update your Will.

Rachel Blackburn

Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services

I joined Mander Hadley’s Wills, Probate and Older Client Services Team in 2018.I specialise in the preparation of Wills, Probate and estate administration, trusts and trust administration and Lasting Powers of Attorney. I also have experience of care fee planning and appeals of Continuing Health Care decisions.