When a will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date to take account of changes in personal circumstances.
We advise that you reconsider the contents of your will regularly to make sure that it still reflects your wishes.
Here, we look at some of the common changes that may affect your will.
Congratulations if you’ve recently bought a new home!
However, do not forget that you need to notify the solicitors holding your will.
This is so they can update their records and check your will to ensure that any gift of that specific property in it, is still valid.
If you gift a property to someone in your will and it no longer exists at the date of your death, this gift will fail.
Did you know that marriage automatically revokes a will?
If you die without a will then you will die what is called Intestate and the Intestacy Rules set out who will receive your estate which may not always be the people you wish to inherit on your death.
Therefore, if you wish your new spouse, children, stepchildren, other family members or friends to inherit then you need to ensure that you make a new will.
If you die without a will i.e. Intestate, and your children receive nothing from your estate under the Intestacy Rules, then your children could challenge your will under the 1975 Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, but this is costly, time-consuming and the funds held for your estate could be used in solicitor fees for defending the claim.
To prevent the above, you should review your existing will before you get married and ensure your new one includes a ‘contemplation of marriage’ clause.
This is a declaration within your will that your intended marriage to your potential future spouse shall not have the effect of revoking your will.
If you are going through a divorce, chances are you will not want your spouse to benefit under the terms of your will.
The good news is that the ex-spouse is treated as if they died before you when the divorce is finalised (decree absolute) and therefore the gifts in your will to your ex-spouse will be null and void and will not take effect.
However, an ex-spouse can still try to claim from your estate on your death if the ex-spouse has not remarried or formed a civil partnership, and a formal financial settlement order or a clean break was not obtained during the divorce proceedings.
Preparing a new will excluding the ex-spouse from your new will and preparing a letter of wishes to accompany your will setting out the reasons why you have not included your ex-spouse which can be considered by the court, if necessary.
Children and stepchildren
If your current will leaves assets to your “children”, this provides for any children that are living at the date of your death.
However, if your current will specifically names your children and you have had more children since, you will need to update your will to include their names on the will.
If you get married in the future, your new marriage may bring you stepchildren.
Did you know stepchildren are not included in the automatic definition of “children, issue or descendants”? You may class stepchildren as your own children as you have looked after them for many years but even if this is the case, they will not automatically benefit if your will gives your estate to your children.
The stepchildren could potentially challenge your will on your death.
To prevent any potential litigation, if you wish for them to benefit under the terms of the will, you will need to either specifically name the stepchildren or have the definition “children and stepchildren” written into your will.
If you own a property abroad, it is best to have a will in place in the country where the property is held.
It is important to ensure the will is restricted to assets in that country only, otherwise that will could have an effect on any other worldwide assets that you own.
If you wish to make amendments to your will, have a new will written or any supporting documentation, simply contact a solicitor who will put changes in place for you.
If you and your partner move into a home together, you become cohabitees.
Did you know that cohabitees do not have the same legal rights as couples who are married or in a civil partnership?
If you are not married or in a civil partnership and you die without making a will then your partner will not receive anything from your estate on your death.
If you want your partner to inherit from your estate then you need to ensure that you have a will in place which specifically makes provision for your partner.
Need help to write or amend your will?
Our Wills, Trusts and Probate Team can help you write or amend your existing will. Call our experts on 01772 799 600.
Article by Victoria Harcourt