With everything that 2020 threw at us, you may have wondered at some point, should I review my Will? You are not alone. Last Summer, UK studies found that 1 in 13 people had made or updated their Will during the early months of lockdown. It seems that succession planning was at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. However, the same study found that only 29% of people surveyed had an up-to-date Will in place which reflected their current intentions.
In this blog, we consider how essential it is not only to have a Will in place but also to continually review and update your Will to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances.
The importance of having a Will in place
Generally speaking, people understand the significance of a Will and the importance of having it in place. It ensures that your personal possessions, savings and property are distributed according to your wishes.
It can also save time, expense and additional upset in the administration of your estate. If you would like to read further about the implications of dying without a Will see our companion blog.
The importance of reviewing your Will
In contrast, the importance of continually reviewing and updating a Will is something that can be forgotten. Often, people will draft a Will when they come to own their first property or expand their family, then tuck the Will away in storage assuming that the matter is resolved.
However, your wishes and circumstances are a constantly changing picture. If a Will is supposed to reflect these, then the Will must be treated as a living document and reviewed on a frequent basis.
For example, someone named in your Will may pass away meaning that you are left without an Executor or beneficiary. Alternatively, you may subsequently have children whom you wish to inherit from your estate.
Over the years, people may also move address or even migrate, you may fall out or lose touch with friends or family members and specific assets mentioned in your Will may be gifted, lost or sold. All of these events are worth considering in the context of your Will. Or, you may simply change your mind about what was originally drafted.
In addition to significant life events, your wealth is likely to naturally increase over time. This means that any tax advice received at the time of your Will may be redundant and your Will may not adequately provide the appropriate tax planning mechanisms.
In light of COVID, the government’s predilection for revising the Inheritance Tax rules seems set to continue which is another reason for obtaining up to date and relevant tax advice for your circumstances.
The consequences of failing to update a Will
Where a Will becomes outdated, it is our experience that the testator (the person who has made a will) often exclaims ‘I’ll let them fight it out!’ – a surprisingly optimistic perspective for such a situation.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case following a death and beneficiaries may bicker (at best) or seek to take some form of legal action against each other. This can cause significant distress to those grieving a loss and draw out the estate administration.
In fact, in Scotland, where any part of your Will is outdated it is treated as ‘failing’ and so the same rules are applied to the relevant aspects as if there were no Will in the first place.
In summary, it is essential that your Will is not simply placed in a drawer and forgotten about. In order to maximise its usefulness and benefit, it is important to review the deed on a regular basis and contact the BTO Personal team if you feel any amendments are required. We will be more than happy to confirm the case, and if so, the best way to achieve these amendments.
In Part 2 of this blog, we will consider the best ways to amend your Will, whether minor or substantial changes.