Everybody knows that they should make a Will, but, for many people, once their Will has been made, they tick it off their list and forget about it. It is important however to review your Will regularly throughout your lifetime to ensure that it still accurately reflects your wishes.
We would recommend that you review your Will every three to five years, and it may be that, on reviewing it, you decide that it still reflects your wishes, in which case, you do not need to update it. There are some important life events however, which should be triggers for people to review and/or update their Wills and we consider some of these in more detail below.
Marriage revokes your Will, so if you made a Will prior to your marriage, it will no longer be valid. If you do not make a new Will before you die, you will die intestate and your estate would fall to be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules which may not reflect your wishes.
If you are intending to marry your partner at the time of making your Will, it can be specially drafted to ensure that it is not revoked by that marriage.
The birth of a child is another important life event when you should consider updating your Will as you will need to appoint a guardian to care for your children in the event that you were to die whilst they are still minors.
You will also need to make provision for your children to inherit under your Will.
The loss of a family member may be another occasion where you wish to consider updating your Will. If you receive inheritance from a family member this may substantially affect your own financial position and you may therefore wish to include additional beneficiaries in your Will or change how much of your estate you have left to your existing beneficiaries.
If you divorce or separate from your long-term partner you may need to consider updating your Will as your ex-partner is likely to be a major beneficiary under your existing Will. When you divorce, in your Will your ex-spouse is treated as having predeceased you, and therefore any gift to them in your existing Will would fail, and accordingly, they would not inherit under your Will. If you have not included any default provisions to cover what should happen in the event of your spouse predeceasing you, this could result in a full or partial intestacy.
If one of your Executors dies before you, you may need to update your Will to name someone else to replace them.
If one of your beneficiaries were to die before you, you may wish to decide what you would like to happen to the legacy you left to them in your Will instead. Say for instance, you left a legacy of £5,000 to somebody, and they died before you, if you did not specify in your existing Will what should happen in that event, the gift would fail and would instead form part of your Residuary Estate. This may be what you want, however it may be that you would rather the legacy passed to somebody else instead.
It may be important to consider your Will and whether you wish to update it if you become ill, especially if your illness is serious or terminal.
When you retire your circumstances drastically change and you may therefore wish to consider updating your Will.
Becoming a grandparent may be another occasion where you wish to consider updating your Will. You may wish to consider leaving a cash legacy to your grandchildren, or ensure that, in the event that one of your children were to predecease you, that they share of your estate which they would have inherited would instead pass to their children, i.e. your grandchildren.
For more information please contact our Private Client department here.
This article was written by Jessica Newton, Solicitor in our Private Client Team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2022.