How often should you update your will?
11 November 2022
There are a few critical times in life when it’s especially important to update your last will and testament. Changes to your lifestyle, family, or job situation can all be good reasons to revisit your will or create one for the first time. It’s important to note that without a will, your estate is subject to intestacy rules; this can lead to your assets being distributed in a way that doesn’t reflect your wishes.
If you have not yet written your will, you can read our article on when the right time to write a will is. Alternatively, if you’d like some assistance updating an existing will, consider contacting Redkite Solicitors for help. Our team of experienced solicitors can provide guidance on all aspects of estate planning, including wills and probate.
Why is it important to update your will?
A will is a legal document that sets out your wishes for how your estate should be distributed after you die. It can also be used to appoint a guardian for children, make arrangements for the care of pets, and specify how your assets are distributed.
If you don’t have a will when you pass away, your estate is subject to the rules of intestacy. These are a set of laws which determine that your assets will be distributed to specific family members, such as your spouse or children. If you have a surviving partner, they will inherit the estate. Without a surviving married partner, your children will inherit your estate. Other family members will have the right to inherit your estate if you have no surviving partner, children, grandchildren, or parents.
If you have a will that was written several years, or even decades ago the decisions that you made may have changed. Relationships that have come and gone, or changes to your wealth status will influence how you would want your estate to be distributed amongst the named beneficiaries.
You should also consider that if you don’t have a will, or your will is not up to date when you die, your family will have to deal with the stress of sorting out your estate and disputing claims that aren’t agreed upon. This can be an emotionally difficult time, made worse by the added financial burden. Having a current will in place can make things much easier for your loved ones and ensure that your final wishes are fulfilled.
When you should write or update your will
Anyone aged 18 and over can write a legally valid will. However, many people wait until they are much older to do so. There isn’t a particular time when you should write your will, but It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning and your final wishes.
If you already have a will, you should consider updating the document anytime there is a change in your personal circumstances. The following milestones are all good reasons to revisit your will:
- Marriage or divorce
Changes to your relationship status will significantly influence who you would like to inherit your estate. If you get married, you may want to specify how much of your estate is distributed between your spouse, children and additional beneficiaries. If you get divorced, you might be interested in voiding or changing any previous provisions for your ex-partner.
- The birth of a child or grandchild
Bringing a new child into the world can be one of the proudest moments in a parent’s life. After this event, you’ll want to do everything you can to protect your child and ensure their future wellbeing. This includes updating your will to include them as a beneficiary.
- A change in a job situation, such as retirement
Whether you are employed, self-employed, or retired, your job situation can greatly impact your will. If you are self-employed, for example, you’ll want to consider how your business will be affected if you die. You might want to appoint a successor or make arrangements for the sale of the business.
- An increase in the value of your assets
As your estate grows, so does the value of the assets that will be distributed upon your death. To establish who will receive what and in what quantities, you may want to update your will. This is especially important if you have recently come into a large sum of money or your assets have accumulated a lot of equity.
- A change in your relationship with beneficiaries
Your relationship with your beneficiaries can change over time for a variety of reasons. If you have recently had a falling out with someone who was previously named in your will, you may want to update the document to reflect this change.
How to change your will
Changing your will is not as simple as writing new instructions on the original document. After the will has been witnessed and signed, making additional changes could invalidate the document.
The only way to change your will is to either write a new one, or add a codicil. A codicil is a legal document that can make minor changes to an existing will without having to start from scratch.
If you decide to write a new will, it’s important to follow the proper steps to ensure the document is legally binding. When writing a will or making changes, you should make clear how you want your estate to distributed. The will or codicil must then be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. These people can be anybody over the age of 18 who are not beneficiaries of the will.
Once your will is complete, it’s important to store the document in a safe place where it can be easily accessed by your executor. If you have any concerns about the legal validity of writing or making changes to your will, it’s best to consult with an experienced solicitor. Here at Redkite Solicitors, our team of experts can help you navigate the process and ensure your will is up to date.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.