Where theres a Will…it might need updating

When and why you should consider making changes to your Will. The experts at J Finance explain…

If you’ve got around to writing a Will you’re ahead of the game – but don’t get too complacent! If you have experienced a major life event such as a divorce or birth of a child, you need to take a second look at your Will to ensure that, should anything happen to you, your loved ones are taken care of as you wish.

Getting married or entering into a civil partnership?

Remember that as soon as you marry, any Will you already have in place is revoked (unless you wrote it with an explanation that the marriage was about to take place and provisions made in it had taken that into consideration). The same applies for civil partnerships. However, in Scotland the law is different.

A new baby?

You must rewrite your Will to include your new child or they won’t be a beneficiary – even if you have already included your other children. Remember that if you have a new grandchild, you need to include them in your Will too.

A death in the family?

If a beneficiary of your Will passes away, it is important you change your Will, so that you can ensure the gift you had allocated to them is shared as you wish, rather than it going back into the estate.

Getting a divorce?

While your Will won’t actually be invalid if you should die after divorcing but before making a new Will, any bequests to your spouse or civil partner will be treated as if they had died on the date you divorced, with any cash or gifts going into the estate residue. Indeed, if you have written a Will stating that everything passes to your spouse or civil partner, then it would be as if you died without leaving a valid Will (intestate).

Another point to consider is that if your spouse or partner was named as an executor or trustee, they would no longer be able to carry out that role if you die after a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. (Again, this is not applicable in Scotland).

Changing your Will?

So how do you change a Will to take into account these major life events? It may not be necessary to write a new Will – it is possible to make some changes using what is called a Codicil. This is a kind of supplement to a Will and is for simple and straightforward alterations. If you are making small changes such as altering the amount of a gift you are leaving, or changing the name of an executor, trustee or guardian, a codicil will do the job. The codicil must be on a new piece of paper and should be signed, dated and witnessed.

However, if you are making major changes such as changing the main beneficiary (after a marriage or divorce for instance), or setting up a trust for a new baby, then a new Will is the answer.

No Will at all?

If you haven’t got around to writing you Will yet, please don’t continue to put it off.  If you’re not married, and your home is not in your partner’s name, they could lose it in favour of your children, siblings, parents – or even the state. Dying intestate (ie, without a Will) can also make sorting out an estate far more lengthy – and even costly; they may have to hire a lawyer to fight their case for them.

You could also subject your family to all kinds of unpleasant disputes if you haven’t made it clear how your estate should be split. You may have told your favourite nephew that he can have your vintage car if you die, but that promise will be worth nothing if it is not written down. You also need to consider who will be guardian to your children should the worst happen and both parents die – be aware that if no arrangement has been made, the courts might have to make that decision for them.

Finally, no one likes paying tax – and making a Will can ensure that as much of your legacy is passed on to the people you care about, rather than going to the taxman.

Speaking to a specialist will ensure you get everything right – don’t assume that you won’t be leaving enough for it to matter!

If you would like to discuss any changes to your Will, we would be happy to help. Please contact us without any obligation.

Established in Berkshire in 2004, J Finance Ltd is one of the leading financial planning companies in the area. We serve clients across the South of England including Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. If you would like to discuss this subject or any other financial matter, without obligation, please contact us on 01635 521 300 or contact@jfinance.co.uk.