It is always important to have a Will in place, but if you already have one, there are certain circumstances where it is necessary to review it.
Changes to personal circumstances
If you marry or form a civil partnership, then your Will is automatically revoked unless you state in the Will that you are making it in expectation of the marriage or civil partnership.
On divorce or on the termination of a civil partnership, then your Will takes effect as if your spouse or civil partner had died before you, unless the Will states otherwise. In this situation, you may therefore want to update your Will accordingly.
In the event that you start living with your partner, then you might like to make financial provision for them in your Will – otherwise, they will receive nothing from your estate unless they decide to bring a claim against your estate on your death, which is likely to be costly, stressful and time-consuming for your partner.
If you have children, then it is advisable to appoint guardians in your Will in the event that you die when your children are under the age of 18 and there is no one left to look after them.
If you acquire an interest in a business, then you need to check that your Will does not contradict any documents which you may have in place relating to the business. For example, you might leave shares in a company to someone in your Will but the company’s articles of association may include restrictions on what happens to those shares on your death.
You may buy a property abroad but your UK Will may not cover your assets abroad. In this case, you will need to make sure that you have a Will in the foreign jurisdiction and it is vital that the two Wills do not revoke one another.
If your estate is worth approximately more than the “nil rate band” threshold (currently £325,000) or if you are married or in a civil partnership and your and your partner’s combined estate is worth more than £650,000, then you may want to consider reducing your Inheritance Tax bill on your death. This would involve obtaining expert legal advice on putting in place a more tax efficient Will, typically through the use of trusts in your Will. There are also other mechanisms, such as leaving in your Will at least 10% of your net estate to charity, which means that your estate will benefit from the reduced rate of Inheritance Tax at 36% instead of 40%.
You may not have given much thought to what is to happen to any digital assets which you may own, such as photos which you have stored in an online account, but you could consider leaving these items to specific beneficiaries in your Will. You might have particularly valuable intellectual property in online assets, such as copyright in a blog or books stored online – in these cases, it would be sensible to include a trust in your Will which deals separately with these assets and, often, different trustees would be appointed.
Changed your mind?
You might simply want to add or remove beneficiaries in your Will or perhaps you appointed an executor but they have since died, and no replacement executor has been appointed.
So why don’t you dig out your Will now and check that it says what you want it to say?