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23 Jan 2023

Wills & Probate

The importance of updating your Will

Having a Will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones, but it doesn’t stop there.

Research last year showed that nearly half of all wills in the UK have not been reviewed in the last five years. Of that, a third haven’t been checked in over 7 years and a fifth haven’t looked at it in over a decade.

Regularly reviewing your Will can prevent it from potentially becoming invalid or leading to unexpected and unwanted outcomes in dealing with your estate. If you die without a valid Will, then the Intestacy Rules apply, which state how your estate must be shared on your death. The Intestacy Rules may not suit your individual circumstances yet largely control the ultimate destination of your assets when you die without having made a valid Will.

Having a valid up to date Will in place ensures that your estate passes the way you intend and gives you an element of control and certainty.

When would I need to update my Will?

Your Will must reflect the many areas of your life and their ever changing nature in order to truly protect for the future. We all go through major life events and it is important to remember to check your Will still reflects your wishes when this events occur. Some of the biggest reasons for updating your Will are:

  • Getting married or entering into a civil partnership: marriage/civil partnership automatically cancels a Will (unless made in anticipation of the event). This means that if you do not prepare a new Will after marriage/civil partnership, your estate could be subject to the Intestacy Rules.
  • Divorce: if you get divorced, your Will considers your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner to have pre-deceased you. The alternate plan in your existing Will may not reflect your wishes.
  • Changes to your family or loved ones: you may want to name a guardian, who should have parental responsibility for your children should they be under 18 when you pass away, or make provision to include a new child/grandchild.
  • Your children have grown up: they will no longer require guardians and could be suitable executors.
  • Change to beneficiaries or executors: you may want to change these to reflect changes in relationships, or if someone you have named has passed away or become unable to act.
  • An increase in wealth: the laws on Inheritance Tax change regularly and it is important that you are able to get the most out of your Will and potentially save thousands of pounds in Inheritance Tax by maximising exemptions and reliefs.
  • Change of heart: it could be as simple as just changing your mind from your previous Will, for example if your feelings towards your beneficiaries change or if you want to give a percentage of your estate to your favourite charity.

What are my options for updating my Will?

There are two options available if you want to update your Will: adding a Codicil or writing a new Will.

A Codicil is a supplementary document that sits alongside your existing Will. It allows you to make amendments to your Will, such as adding, modifying or revoking clauses, without the need to completely re-write your Will. It’s generally recommended to use a Codicil where you only need to make small changes to your Will such as adding or deleting an executor.. If you want to make significant changes to your Will, then it is recommended that you make a new Will.

While there is no clear-cut rule for when a Will must be updated, it is important to review your Will every few years as well as when any major life changes occur.

If you would like advice on updating your Will, our Wills & Probate team are here to help. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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