Here at the Society of Will Writers we recommend that you review your estate plan every 3-5 years. This is to make sure that your will still matches your current wishes. We also recommend reviewing your planning when you have a change in your personal circumstances, or when a beneficiary has a change in circumstances.
Many a bitter feud has been fought over an inheritance which could have been avoided had the deceased kept their will up to date. For a recent example of this we need only look at the will of Joyce Appleby. In this case a dispute arose over Joyce’s will which she had written in 2009. In her will she had left a share of her estate to her son Don, or if he died before her to “his wife Cindy”. Don later divorced Cindy and remarried Maya. He then died before Joyce, and a dispute arose over whether her estate should pass to Cindy or Maya. The basis for Maya’s argument was that as his wife at the time of his death the estate should pass to her, as Cindy no longer fit the description of “his wife”.
Ultimately Maya lost and it was decided that the half share of Joyce’s £840,000 estate should pass to Cindy.
You should review your estate planning upon any of the following events:
If you marry your existing will is automatically revoked unless it was written in contemplation of that marriage and an appropriate clause included in the will to state this. If you are engaged and planning on marrying make sure you tell your Will Writer so they can help you plan your will accordingly.
If you divorce any gifts in your will to your former spouse or civil partner are made void. As are any appointments of them as an executor, trustee, or guardian. Even though gifts to former spouses will fail after your divorce has been finalised it is still a good idea to review your will planning. After the divorce your financial circumstances may have changed, or you may want to reconsider how other beneficiaries will be provided for now you aren’t providing for your spouse.
You should also review your will planning if a beneficiary of yours divorces or is in the process of going through a divorce. This avoids disputes like we have seen above in the Joyce Appleby case. There is also planning you could put in place to avoid a beneficiary’s share of your estate passing to their spouse in a divorce.
3. Change in law
It is important to keep abreast of changes in law that may affect your estate planning. This is especially important if you have a large estate that will be liable to inheritance tax (IHT) as if tax law changes and your will isn’t kept up to date your estate may end up paying more IHT on your death. In 2017 there as a large change to tax law that introduced the residence nil rate band – a special IHT allowance where your home is gifted to your children (or other direct descendants). If you haven’t updated your will to take advantage of this new allowance you ought to contact a Will Writer for a review as soon as possible.
4. General change in circumstances
It is also advised to review your will after other general changes in circumstances, such as when a beneficiary dies, or has children of their own. Relationships change over the years and unfortunately friends and family we were once close to may drift away so it is important to make sure your will always reflects your wishes; you probably don’t want to make that gift to the friend you fell out with! You may even wish to change your will to exclude a person who you previously inherited, but make sure you seek professional advice on this first.
On a happier note perhaps you have repaired a relationship with a formerly distant child and now want to change your will to benefit them.
If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your will or if any of your circumstances have changed then maybe it’s time to break it out of the safe and check you’re still happy with the contents. For a full review and to make sure your will is up to date with current law contact a Member of the Society of Will Writers. Find someone local to you here.