Does your will need a New Year health check?

5th January 2016

The start of a new year is an excellent time to take stock and get your life in order. If you have not already made a will, then now is the time to do so. Even if you have made your will, you should not assume that you have done all you can to put your affairs in order. As Shelly Wainwright, wills and probate lawyer with Ansons Solicitors in Lichfield explains, if you do not regularly review your will it can easily fall out of date.

“In my experience, an old will is sometimes as inappropriate as having no will at all. At Ansons, we recommend you review your will at least every 4-5 years, or if the personal or financial circumstances of you or your main beneficiaries change,” says Shelly.

Anyone who has made a homemade or DIY will is particularly advised to have it reviewed by a specialist wills and probate solicitor as it may not reflect your intentions or achieve your desired outcome.

Recent changes to the intestacy laws and new rules on inheritance tax allowances could also mean that the terms of your current will could be improved upon, and provide you with more a favourable tax position.

There are a number of health checks you can carry out yourself:- 

  1. Is your name and address still the same? If you have moved home or changes your name, through marriage or divorce it is time to have your personal details updated.
  2. Has your marital status changed since you made your will? If you have married since you made your will, then your marriage will have voided your will (unless it was worded in a particular way). You and your spouse need to make new wills.
  3. Are the names and addresses of your executors and trustees up to date? If they moved out of the area or you are no longer in touch with them, then they may not be the ideal people to be appointed.
  4. Have you had children since you made your will? If you have not already done so, your will should set out your wishes for who you would like to look after your children in case you die while they are under 18. You may want to review who you have nominated as guardians, and check their names and addresses are still correct. As your children grow and have their own opinions, your chosen guardians may no longer be suitable and you may need to make a substitution.
  5. If you have left any specific gifts of your personal effects, have you sold any of them or already given them away? If so, then the gift in your will is going to fail and there will be no automatic replacement gift, so you need to include an alternative gift, if appropriate.
  6. Have you included everyone you would like to as a beneficiary? For example, have you had more children or grandchildren since you made your will?
  7. If you are not including all of your children, do you have a statement or ‘letter of wishes’ accompanying your will explaining why you have left your estate in the way you have and your connection to your chosen beneficiaries? This is important if it is likely there are going to be disgruntled beneficiaries who are prepared to challenge your will.
  8. Have you included substitutionary clauses to cover if any of your beneficiaries die before you? If not, this may cause what is called a partial intestacy which means that your estate may not pass to who you intend.
  9. Is your will correctly signed and witnessed? If not, then your will is invalid and this will mean your estate will be dealt with under the intestacy rules which, again, means that your estate may not pass to who you intend.
  10. Where is your will stored? If it is at home, is it stored in something fire proof? Or, perhaps you store your will at your previous solicitors or the bank. If so, are you paying and annual fee for that storage? If so, please bear in mind that Ansons do not charge for storing wills. 

With so much to think about, make sure that one of your New Year resolutions is to give your will a thorough health check. To make sure there is no doubt about the validity or content of your will, make an appointment to update your will with, a specialist wills and probate solicitor such as Shelly Wainwright at Ansons Solicitors as soon as you can.

To review the terms of your existing will, or to make a new will, or any other wills and probate matter contact Shelly Wainwright at Ansons Solicitors in Lichfield, Staffordshire on 01543 267 984 or email . Ansons Solicitors have offices in Cannock and Lichfield, Staffordshire.