Today marks the start of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE)'s Update Your Will Week! We are proud to be part of SFE, who throughout this week will be sharing helpful resources and advice on the importance of having an up-to-date will.

Why should you update your will? 

Once you have made your will it can be tempting to put it to the back of your mind and assume that everything is in order. However, changes in legislation, the passage of time and major life events may drastically change your wishes and you may not realise that your will needs to be updated.

Leaving an up-to-date will ensures that your wishes are carried out when you pass away, and your assets are left to your loved ones. An out-of-date will might not accurately reflect what you want, or it may even be invalid. If it is invalid, your estate may be intestate and dealt with in accordance with the intestacy rules, rather than your expressed wishes which could result in your loved ones missing out.

By regularly updating your will, you can make sure that it is reflective of your current intentions. This can help minimise disputes and reduce the burden on your family at an already challenging time. It will leave your executors confident in the knowledge that they are carrying out your final wishes as you would have wanted and provides an opportunity to maximise the full inheritance tax savings available to your estate.

What could go wrong if I don’t update my will?

Having an outdated will can, in some scenarios, have serious consequences.

For example, if a beneficiary of your will dies before you and there are insufficient provisions to cover what should happen to your estate, your estate could become a partial intestacy. Meaning some assets will pass in accordance with your will and some in accordance with the rigid intestacy rules, resulting in higher legal fees and a more complex estate to administer.  

In addition, you may have made your will prior to having children and your will may not feature guardian provisions. If both you and the child’s other parent die without appointing guardians, then a court will have to appoint guardians for your children.

Parental responsibility for your children will not automatically go to a family member as some people assume. Even if you have informally decided that a grandparent, sibling, or a friend will look after your child, they will not have parental responsibility unless appointed by a court. This could be avoided by ensuring that your will is up to date and includes an appointment of guardians.

How frequently should your will be updated? 

We recommend that you review, and if necessary, update your will every five years. We also recommend reviewing and updating your will if a major life event happens, such as:

  • a birth in your family (your will may not include the new child);
  • a death in your family (the deceased may need to be removed from your will);
  • if you marry (marriage automatically revokes wills);
  • if you divorce (your ex-spouse is treated as if they have died thus altering how your will operates);
  • if one or more of your executors predeceases you (replacements may be required);
  • if there are significant changes in your financial circumstances (inheritance tax planning may be required); and
  • if you move home.

How can I update my will?

If you decide to update your will, we would be happy to help. Please contact our estate planning and wills team and we can discuss your unique situation and wishes with you. We can also advise on inheritance tax and estate planning if needed.