Wills need to be kept up to date to reflect your circumstances and the value of your assets
If you have a current Will, it’s worth checking it to see if it’s up to date and valid. You should do this at least every five years, but sooner than that if there’s been a change in your circumstances.
Here are 12 circumstances when you should change your Will. This is not an exhaustive list and there are others, such as starting a business, but these are some of the most common:
1. You’ve had children
Be sure to include your children as beneficiaries, or reserve beneficiaries, in your new Will. You should also appoint guardians – people who will take responsibility for looking after them if both natural parents have passed away.
2. Your children are all over the age of 18
Check that your Will makes provision for current or future grandchildren, just in case your children predecease you. If you’re making a new Will, include their full names and addresses (previously, they may have just been grouped together as “children”). You can also ditch redundant guardianship clauses.
3. You’ve bought a house
If you’ve bought a house in your own name, you may wish to give your partner a right to live in it for a set period after your death. If you’ve bought a house with someone else, make sure you understand who will inherit your share on your death. Jointly owned property won’t pass via your Will but “tenants in common” will.
4. You’re getting a divorce
Make a Will now! Otherwise, your estranged spouse remains a beneficiary of your Will until the divorce is finalised. You may want to remove them as an executor too.
5. You’ve got divorced
Your ex-spouse (or civil partner) won’t benefit from your Will any longer. But who do you wish to benefit? It’s probably a good time to have a rethink.
6. You’ve got married
Your existing Will is automatically revoked by a marriage or civil partnership. Getting a new one is important unless you want the rigid rules of intestacy to apply.
7. You now have stepchildren
If you want to benefit your stepchildren, you’ll need to mention them by name in your new Will. They aren’t covered by gifts to “children”, although adopted children are.
8. You’ve fallen out with someone
Obviously you’ll want to rewrite your Will to remove, or reduce, the gift to that person. You might also wish to make a different kind of Will – one that would reduce the chance of them making a successful claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
9. You no longer possess something mentioned in your Will
Did you originally plan to gift your classic sports car to your daughter but you’ve sold it since that Will was made? In which case, the gift will simply fail. Sadly, your daughter won’t be entitled to an equivalent cash gift.
10. You’ve acquired a rental property or two
Owning a rental property could push your estate over the limit for paying inheritance tax by the time you die. Plus, there’s capital gains tax (CGT) to consider. Your Will Writer or solicitor should be able to discuss options for dealing with it.
11. You’re living with someone
You’ve met someone and they’ve moved in – congratulations! At some point, chances are you’ll want to include them in your Will in any case. But be aware that after two years of you living as if you were married (or civil partners), they have the right to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
12. A beneficiary has died
If a beneficiary dies, many Wills have so-called “fallback” clause that says what should happen if that person dies before you. For example, the gift may go to their children instead. If this is no longer appropriate, you’ll want to remove them or change the fallback clause.
It’s probably easiest and cheapest to get the Will Writer or solicitor who originally wrote it to make the change. They might use a codicil (an additional document attached to the end). But most likely they will prepare a new one from scratch because they’ll have the document stored as a computer file.
If you can’t get in touch with the person who wrote it and you’re in Bristol or the surrounding area, click the button below to arrange a callback. If you live further away, online video appointments can be arranged.