Life event triggers for a Will review

Published by Jenn Trussler on 7 June 2024

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A Will is a legally binding document which confirms what you want to happen to your property when you die.

A Will also deals with other important matters such as who will be responsible for caring for your children (guardians) and who you want to be responsible for dealing with your assets (executors). 

Now that you know it is important to have a Will in the first place, it is also important to keep your Will under regular review to ensure that it still aligns with your wishes and your family circumstances.  You should also keep an eye out for any changes in the law that may have taken effect since you made your Will.  

As a general rule, you should dust off your will and review it every 5 years unless there are major life events such as any of the following in which case you should look at it sooner:  

New children and grandchildren  

You may wish to include gifts to the new arrivals in your family or to adjust existing gifts to include them.  It may also be that grandchildren born after you made your existing Will are not automatically included. 

Changes in financial circumstances

If the value of your estate increases, for example through an inheritance after the death of a loved one, a lump sum on retirement or simply through the increase in the value of property, you should consider whether your Will still disposes of your estate in accordance with your wishes and whether certain beneficiaries are receiving more than you initially intended.  

If a beneficiary’s financial position improves significantly, you may wish to adjust the amount that would pass to them. This also includes situations where you have made a gift or loan to a child and want to reflect this in your Will to achieve fairness between all of your children on your death.  

Death of someone named in your Will

If a beneficiary dies, the gift to them could pass to an unintended recipient in accordance with strict statutory rules. In this circumstance, you should review your Will to adjust the distribution between the surviving beneficiaries or add a new beneficiary. Similarly, if an executor has died and you have not provided a  substitute , your estate may be administered by someone inappropriate.   

Foreign assets

If you purchase a new property or invest in assets in another country, automatic rules of inheritance may apply (known as ‘forced heirship’) and you may wish to adjust your English Will to take this into account to avoid a conflict of law in the two (or more) different countries.  

Vulnerable beneficiaries

If one of your beneficiaries is having or is likely to have marital difficulties or is or may be in financial difficulties, it could be sensible to change your Will so that the gifts which you intend to make are not affected by the terms of any divorce or end up in the hands of creditors.  Similarly, elderly relatives, those in receipt of welfare benefits, or those with learning difficulties may find that their circumstances have changed and you may wish to make provision for them under your Will. We can ensure that your Will is drafted to cater for these eventualities. 

Changes in relationships

Do you have a different partner now from when you made your Will? If so, this is a crucial trigger to review, and likely update, your Will. This should be even more of a priority if you are living together or jointly own property such as a house. 

Marriage can have unintended consequences to your existing Will. Depending on the wording in your Will, a later marriage could revoke (i.e. cancel) it. 

A divorce on the other hand does not automatically revoke your Will, which is often a common misconception. The divorce process can be drawn out and until the divorce has reached a certain point, the spouse you are divorcing could still be entitled to benefit under your Will, which is unlikely to be the desired outcome. 

Case study

Geoffrey creates a Will in 2016 whilst married to Sharon. Geoffrey and Sharon have an 8-year-old child together called Isobelle. Geoffrey’s Will appoints Sharon and her brother, Alan, as joint executors and trustees of his estate. Geoffrey also appoints Alan and his wife, Linda as Isobelle’s guardians if he dies after Sharon. Sharon is Geoffrey’s sole beneficiary.  

In 2024, Geoffrey and Sharon are now divorced and are no longer on good terms. Their families no longer get on with each another.  Geoffrey now lives with his girlfriend Francesca, and they have two young children together. 

Geoffrey believes that his 2016 Will no longer applies following his divorce and is not interested in seeking advice in respect of an updated Will to reflect his current circumstances.  Geoffrey has unfortunately misunderstood the legal effect of his divorce from Sharon on his 2016 Will.  This Will remains valid but has the following implications: Alan would be treated as Geoffrey’s sole executor and trustee, and his new partner, Francesca, will not automatically inherit his estate.   

It is likely that, on receiving appropriate advice, Geoffrey would have made a new Will to reflect his wishes. 

How can Kreston Reeves Private Client help you? 

If you would like to know more regarding your options for reviewing or amending your Will and would like some help with the process of doing so, please contact our team who would be happy to help. 

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