Typically, we recommend you update a Will every three to five years or in the event of any large life change. It’s the best way to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and prevent additional court costs in the event of your passing.
Here are seven common scenarios or life events that constitute valid reasons for amending your existing Will.
Marriage, or re-marriage for that matter, is a perfect example of one valid reason to amend your Will.
Any marriage or civil partnership you enter into immediately invalidates any Will you signed beforehand assuming it doesn’t refer to that later marriage. This is because your new spouse or civil partner automatically becomes the new primary beneficiary of your estate. Any biological children you have may still be able to claim a part of your estate, but any non-adopted step-children will not automatically inherit.
For the interests of all of your family members, new and existing, it’s easier and more cost effective to update your Will directly after a new marriage. This way you can be certain that all of your beneficiaries receive the parts of your estate that you intend them to have.
We recommend you speak with one of our specialist solicitors in Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning as soon as possible, to ensure everything is up-to-date!
Generally, divorce doesn’t automatically change the Will in the same way that a marriage does. However, a divorce may change how your estate is distributed upon your passing, and may invalidate specific provisions made for your ex-spouse or civil partner.
For this reason, many people wait until their divorce proceedings are completed and then restructure their Will and estate accordingly.
The best thing to do is consult with your solicitor once you begin separating, or begin divorce proceedings. This will ensure your estate can continue to be distributed throughout the divorce process according to your wishes.
Once a divorce has been filed or registered, it’s likely your assets may change, and your Will needs to be amended accordingly.
Death occurring during a divorce
During divorce proceedings there may be situations you can’t account for. This is a key reason why it’s always a good idea to update your Will if you’re separated, if you’re living with a partner, or if you have additional children.
An extreme example is the case of Ubbi v Ubbi  EWHC 1396 – where the sudden and unexpected death of a father, with a £3.5 million estate, occurred before his divorce proceedings were finalised.
In this situation, the father died without outlining provisions for his two new children in his Will. Because he hadn’t updated his Will to include the arrival of his two new biological children, a claim on their behalf was brought against the estate (under the Inheritance Act).
Since the two new children were biologically related to the deceased (father), they had the right to claim against his estate even though they weren’t named beneficiaries in his Will. The court then had to determine exactly how much of the estate the children should receive.
The problem was that even though there was no conflict from either party about the estate, both had to incur unexpected court fees (that were taken against the value of the estate) in order to have the court make a decision on the case. This meant the beneficiaries received less, even though it was an amicable situation.
If the father had outlined his intentions to care for all of his children in his Will, no court action would have been necessary.
Additions to your family
New members of your family may occur through a variety of means, including birth, marriage, remarriage, or a civil partnership.
As we’ve discussed, a new union will invalidate any previously registered Will this could potentially create a gap for any previous beneficiaries — they won’t be entitled to anything you’ve promised them unless you update your Will.
There are other ways you can gain new family members that could alter how you choose to distribute your estate.
New family members may include:
- Biological children
- Adoption of a child
- Grandchildren or great-grandchildren
Updating your Will is the only way to ensure your new family members inherit from your estate, or are adequately provided for upon your passing.
Gain or loss of large assets
Over time, your Will may account for assets you no longer hold, or it may not account for new ones you’ve acquired. Depending on your situation and the terms of your previous Will, it’s always a good idea to review your Will when your assets change. This way you can be sure any changes are accurately, validly reflected in your Will.
For example, we often deal with cases where business owners choose to leave the business to their children in the Will. However, if the business is sold either in whole or in part, that change may need to be recorded and amended in the Will. Otherwise, there could be confusion over how those assets are distributed, which may trigger a costly court dispute against the estate.
As we’ve said, if a dispute arises regarding your estate, the associated legal fees and court costs for are likely to taken directly from the total value of the estate. For the benefit of all involved, we recommend having a clear, valid Will to avoid these types of situations. Plus, the cost of updating a Will is nominal when compared to the cost of taking a dispute to court.
Changes to your named trustees or executors
As we touched on above, you’ll need to update your Will any time there’s an addition or change in your family. The same applies to any changes of the named trustees or executors of your Will.
Both of these roles involve a large responsibility from an administrative and legal standpoint. Since people and circumstances have a way of changing over time, you may need to amend your Will accordingly.
We’ve been seeing more frequently, as the general population ages, situations arise where parents may outlive their children or other family. This can mean executors may need to be amended and a new person named.
In such cases, you may wish to name Farleys Solicitors as the executor of your estate. Doing so ensures that your wishes are carried out without you needing to pay for continued amendments to your Will.
Changes to your named beneficiaries
You may choose to change a named beneficiary in your Will for any number of reasons.
Depending on the circumstances, you may find it becomes a very complex and delicate decision to add or remove beneficiaries from your estate.
We’ll be there with you every step of the way to help you understand your choices and the consequences they may have, both in terms of the impact on your estate, as well as any legal implications of the change.
As we’ve outlined in our FAQs, mental capacity is a term that’s used to refer to your ability to make welfare and financial decisions for yourself. Normally, a loss of mental capacity will not impact the validity of a pre-existing Will.
However, if your mental capacity changes due to an accident, injury, or declining health, changes to you Will would need to be handled with care.
Depending on the severity of your situation, changes to your Will could increase the likelihood of the Will being challenged in court.. These claims can result in significant cost to the estate due to court costs, and may be a long process to resolve.
For any case that involves complex changes to your circumstances, we recommend that you speak with our solicitors right away. We can provide you with expert advice on your rights and next steps, and can help you make an informed decision about the distribution of your estate!
Why choose us?
At Farleys we’ll be with you every step of the way, providing advice and services to help you through any area of law relating to Wills, Trusts, and Probate. Our experts can draft your Will, take on the responsibilities of named executors, and handle all of the paperwork so you don’t have to!
We provide our clients with legal advice, as well as friendly and straight-talking legal services – all at a fair cost. You can rely on us to keep you informed of any changes throughout the process.