26/11/19Will Aid month: 5 reasons to review your will now

When was the last time you reviewed your will? If it has been a while or your circumstances have changed, November is the ideal time to take another look at it. This month marks Will Aid month, aiming to encourage more people to consider their financial affairs and do good for charity.

Will Aid is a partnership between the legal profession and nine UK charities:

  • Action Aid
  • Age UK
  • British Red Cross
  • Christian Aid
  • Save the Children
  • Sightsavers
  • Trócaire

Throughout November, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic will. Instead, clients are encouraged to make a voluntary donation, so your money goes towards helping the above charities. The recommended donation is £100 for a single basic will and £180 for a basic pair of mirror wills. More than £1 million has been raised through Will Aid.

A will is the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out when you die. Despite this, an alarming number of people put off even writing a will. Research from Will Aid found 53% of adults have not prepared a will. Further statistics highlight that it is not just about passing on your estate. 52% of parents with children under 18 have not assigned legal guardians for them by having a will in place.

Even if you have already written a will, it is important to review it regularly. Here are five reasons why you may need to review your will now.

1. Your wishes have changed

Quite simply, what you want may have changed. This may be due to a variety of factors and it is important to review your will in light of this. Your will is the only way to make sure your wishes are carried out and your estate is distributed how you want.

2. You have married or divorced

Your relationship status may have an impact on your will.

Getting married automatically revokes any existing will unless the will states that it was prepared in anticipation of the marriage. Under intestacy rules, which apply if there is no valid will, your husband, wife or civil partner will usually inherit your entire estate unless your estate is valued at over £250,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst this may align with what you want, it is not always the case. If you have children from a previous relationship, for example, you may want either the entire or a portion of your estate to go to them.

Divorce does not revoke your will but it does remove the former spouse as a beneficiary of the will. It will also affect the way the intestacy rules will apply, as well as how you want your estate to be distributed. Following a divorce, it is a good idea to review who will inherit your estate and how this aligns with your wishes.

3. You have welcomed new children or grandchildren

Children and grandchildren are often the focus of a will. When you welcome new arrivals, it is a good reason to adjust your will to ensure they are included. If you name children and grandchildren in your will, it is possible to make similar provisions for future family members. However, even if you have done this it is a good idea to check everything is in order. You may also want to update your will to include stepchildren or grandchildren.

4. Your financial situation has changed

Over time, your circumstances will change. It may mean you have more or less to leave behind for your beneficiaries. As a result, how you can distribute your assets effectively may also have changed. For example, if you have named certain assets to go to a child, you may want to update your will to rebalance it if the value of the asset has significantly risen or fallen.

5. To reflect changes in tax regulations

Tax regulations can change, and it may mean your estate is liable for Inheritance Tax (IHT). This would mean a portion of your estate goes to the taxman rather than your loved ones. If your estate may be liable for IHT, there are often things you can do to reduce the eventual bill, some of which will rely on your will. If you are worried about IHT, please get in touch with us.

What to do if your will needs updating

If your will does need updating, you should not alter the original document. You have two options:

  • Write a new will: The first option is to start afresh. This may be the best option if you have significant changes to make to your existing will. Your new will should clearly state that it revokes all old wills. You should also destroy copies of your old will to avoid confusion.
  • Using a codicil: If just small adjustments need to be made, a codicil may be suitable. This is a separate document used to update your will and should be stored with it. A codicil will need to be signed and witnessed to be valid. There are no restrictions on what can be changed in a codicil, but larger changes can make organising your estate complex.

Your will should be an essential part of your financial and estate plan. If you would like to talk about the wealth and assets you will leave behind for loved ones and how to distribute them, please get in touch.

Please note: The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Tax and Estate Planning.