Purchasing property and getting married are key events that prompt the need to update your will, but there are other circumstances you may not have considered, says Hollie Skipper of Wiseman Lee Solicitors
It is no surprise that many people only make one will during their lifetime. The prospect of discussing your personal affairs with a solicitor can be unsettling or you may simply not have the time. While changes to your address and changes to the names and addresses of beneficiaries do not often create a problem, why might you need to change your will?
The most popular reason is a change within a family relationship. Not including someone in your will who ought to reasonably expect to benefit is something to approach very carefully and proper drafting of the reason why is essential. You might want to add a new beneficiary to your will. Simply letting your family know that you would like to gift someone a sum of money or personal item on your death does not legally oblige them to do so. Indeed, they may forget and your intended beneficiary will go without.
Changes to your assets may also be a good time to review your will. Perhaps you have acquired an investment property jointly with another and you would like your interest to pass solely to them on your death. Perhaps you have made lifetime gifts to your children and would now like to benefit your grandchildren under your will instead. A family member passing away or the birth of new family members can prompt the need to change a will. With many people now living long enough to meet their great-grandchildren, you may wish to ensure they too benefit from your assets.
Choosing the right executors to administer your estate is very important. As time passes, you may consider the executors you originally chose are no longer suitable. They may be of a similar age to you and may not be around at the time of your death or their own circumstances may dictate they are unlikely to have the time to devote to the process. If you made your will when your children were young and they are now over 18, perhaps you would like to add them as executors.
With changes to the law, the terms of your will may mean you do not benefit from the recent increase in inheritance tax exemption or your will may contain an outdated or unworkable trust. You should ensure your assets pass in the most tax efficient way possible.
Small changes to your will can be made by executing a codicil, which is a supplementary document that modifies the terms of an existing will. This is often cheaper than starting from scratch. However, if the updates are substantial or the changes have a bearing on the other operative terms of your will, then it is best to make a new one. A properly drafted will can have a long shelf life and cover some foreseeable changes as your family grows. However, I recommend you review it regularly and seek advice if you consider there are any changes to be made.