A Guide to Updating Your Will

Once you have a Will written and tucked away, you might be tempted to forget about it entirely. However, this could be a big mistake as you could miss out on many benefits for yourself and your loved ones.

Updating your Will every few years is essential to later life planning as many aspects of your life might change. Read our handy guide to learn when and how to change or update your Will! 

Do You Need to Change Your Will?

A Will allows you to leave your assets and possessions to anyone you like. It is legally binding, and the people you have listed as beneficiaries will receive the gifts you have left them when you pass away. Even if you have a solid Will in place, you may want to change it or amend it for several reasons, such as: 

  • Someone named in your Will passes away – If someone named as a beneficiary or executor passes away, it is essential to update your Will to reflect this. 
  • You welcome a new child or grandchild – If your family grows or changes, you may want to update your Will to include them. 
  • You get married or divorced – Marriage and divorce have major implications for your Will and estate plan. Make sure to review your Will and any other structures you have in place, such as trusts or lasting powers of attorney (LPAs), to see what needs to be changed. 
  • You haven’t checked it in a while – even if there are no major changes, it is good to check your Will once every three to five years. You may find that there are some things you want to change, or if you’re happy with it, you can sit back and relax. 
  • You buy or sell properties or assets – Selling your property or assets, such as stocks, can significantly change your estate plan. Updating your Will to reflect this can avoid problems for your loved ones dealing with probate. 
  • Inheritance Tax legislation changes – Inheritance Tax (IHT) is currently charged at 40% on the value of your estate over £325,000, or £500,000 if you use the residence nil rate band. However, these rules are subject to change, and you may find that reviewing your Will can help you save money so you can leave more of your assets to your loved ones. 
  • Circumstances change – When appointing executors for your estate or trustees to manage certain assets in a trust, you will have picked people capable and willing to do the job. In the future, this could change, and the people chosen could lose the mental capacity they need to carry out their responsibilities or simply change their minds. Updating your Will allows you to replace them with someone better suited to the role. 

Depending on the events, you may only need to make minor changes, which a codicil can amend. However, events like divorce or a new marriage can have more considerable implications for your estate, and writing a new Will could be a better option. 

Using A Codicil 

A codicil is a document that allows you to make amendments to an existing Will. It is suitable for small changes, such as changing a beneficiary or executor, and there are no limits to the number of codicils you can include within your Will. You cannot simply amend your existing Will in any way, so a codicil allows you to tack on your changes. 

Codicils are separate from a Will and must be signed and dated in the same way. They also have to be stored alongside the original Will to make it easier for your executors to manage your estate. 

However, if you include a codicil, it is best to keep it simple, as they can make things more difficult for your loved ones. Codicils improperly implemented into your Will could lead to inheritance disputes, especially if they contain major changes. If you want to change a significant portion of your Will or estate, it is better and often more cost-efficient to write a new Will instead. 

Rewriting Your Will

Writing a brand-new Will is usually the best option if you want to make big changes. For example, if you want to take advantage of trusts or changes in IHT law, it would be much easier and simpler to rewrite your Will rather than amend it with several confusing codicils. 

If you remarry, you must create an entirely new Will. Marriage invalidates any previous Wills, so to prevent your estate from falling under the rules of intestacy, a new Will is essential. 

Rewriting your Will is just like doing it the first time, but there are several things you should be aware of:

  • Make sure your new Will states that it revokes any of your older Wills or codicils to prevent confusion or disputes in the probate process.
  • Let your executors know where your new Will is stored so they can find it easily. 
  • If you own foreign property or assets in other parts of the world and have a Will specifically for that country, ensure that your new Will does not accidentally revoke it. 

Sitting down to review your Will with a legal professional allows you to include everyone you want – or remove those you don’t. Even if you have no changes in mind, looking over it might prompt you to make some tweaks here and there to ensure your loved ones get the most out of your estate. 

Whether you want to review, amend, or redo your Will entirely, The Planning Bee is here to help. Get in touch with our legal team today to find out more. 

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