Events that can trigger the need to change your will include:
- You get married or enter a civil partnership. This automatically revokes any Will you made previously, unless it was made expressly in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership.
- The birth of your child/children, and also when they reach the age of majority. Minor children (under 18) are unable to inherit absolutely. Your Will must provide for any inheritance to be held in trust until they are at least 18, or a later age of your choice. Once they have reached this age, you might want to review your Will.
- Your relationship breaks down. From the date of divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, your Will is interpreted as if your former spouse/partner had predeceased you. However, if you separate without a divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, there is no such re-interpretation of your Will, and your spouse/partner could still benefit under it. In both cases, as a relationship breakdown often results in significant changes to your personal and financial circumstances, it is wise to review and update your Will.
- You acquire new assets, or no longer own assets you had when you made your Will. This could be if you move house or receive an inheritance. If you inherit from your parents and want certain assets to be handed down the generations, you might need to amend your Will so they pass direct to your children, not to your spouse.
- Change of employment if you become entitled to, or lose entitlement to, death in service benefit or other types of life insurance. This can be a significant sum. While it normally falls outside the terms of your Will, you may wish to take it into account as financial provision for your nominated beneficiary. This may affect how you wish to distribute your other assets.
- Births, marriages/civil partnerships, deaths and other events that affect the financial circumstances of your (potential) beneficiaries. For example, your Will might provide equally for your children. If one of your children has a child with a disability or has fallen on hard times you may want to leave them a greater share of your assets. Your Will may need amending to provide for this.
- Change of inheritance tax laws. If your estate exceeds the inheritance tax free allowance of £325,000 (as at 2017), inheritance tax planning could be important when preparing your Will. You may need advice from a solicitor on changes to the inheritance tax law and how revising your Will can mitigate inheritance tax. This is especially so if you relied on tax saving loopholes that have since been closed.
- You have changed your mind as to the terms of your Will.
In any event, it is sensible to review your Will every five years, and seek legal advice on whether it needs amending to reflect your current circumstances and wishes. Many changes can be made by way of a supplemental document, known as a Codicil, which is usually quicker and more cost effective than redrafting your entire Will.
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