As experts in family law we’re used to advising people through some of the most stressful and complex periods of their life. This can include the end of a relationship, the process of dealing with the death of a loved one and arguments over the care of children. We provide advice which is easy to follow and deals with both the legal and emotional ramifications of situations such as these. One of the processes which people come to us for help with is writing a will, and we’re happy to help not just with writing a will but also with answering the question ‘How often should I update my will?’
As is often stated it’s pretty much never too soon to sit down and write a will. The complex circumstances which arise if someone dies without having written a will, leaving their nearest and dearest to deal with the issue of dividing their estate, would be difficult at the best of times, but are even more stressful when someone has to deal with the immediate emotional impact of grief. The mistake many people make, however, is to sit down and write a will but then put it away and forget about it. This can have an impact which is virtually as damaging as not writing a will at all, since the circumstances of a person’s life change over the years, and an effective will has to be written in a way which reflects these changes.
The question of how often should I update my will is clearly going to receive a different answer depending upon how quickly the circumstances of your life change in ways which will impact on the make-up and division of the estate you leave behind. The best policy is to review the will you’ve written every five years or so to ensure that it still complies with your wishes. The most obvious reasons for having to change a will revolve around major changes in your circumstances, but it is also the case that the law on matters such as inheritance tax can sometimes change in a manner which will impact upon the provisions of your will. When reviewing the contents of your will every five years or so, the wisest course of action is to call upon expert help such as that provided by Higgins Miller. Our solicitors will be aware of which life events are most likely to change the way your will operates, and they will also be on top of the details of any changes in the law which might be relevant. Amongst the life-changes which might impact upon the effectiveness of a will are the following:
- A marriage – a new marriage will render an existing will invalid, unless that will was written with reference to an upcoming wedding
- Children – the birth of new children or grandchildren should be reflected in a will if they are to be included in its provisions
- Divorce – in the event of a divorce, an ex-spouse will be treated, in legal terms, as if they have predeceased you. Your will may therefore need to be altered in a way which reflects this change and divides your estate as you wish to see it shared out.
- Death – if someone named as a beneficiary in your will dies before you do, it’s important to review your will in order to make certain what will happen to the part of your estate you left to them, and what changes you would like to make in light of this.
As can be seen from the above, the answer to the question ‘How often should I update my will’ can be affected by a wide range of events. It’s therefore best to seek expert advice both on whether a change needs to be made, and how to go about making that change. It is possible to add a ‘codicil’, which is a simple alteration to a will made out in a similar way to the original will itself. In most cases, however, it will be quicker and easier to simply rewrite the will to reflect the changes you wish to make.
If you want to ask ‘How often should I update my will?’ or have already decided to make a change and wish to seek expert advice, simply call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. An initial 20 minute appraisal can be provided free of charge, and our fixed fee first appointment scheme means you can access help without worrying about rising costs. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.