When should you update your will?

The below article is in relation to the law of England and Wales. Different laws apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you already have a will, make sure it is up to date and matches your current circumstances and preferences. Regularly reviewing your will every five years and ensuring that it is updated after any big changes is a smart idea. Major changes may include both marriage and divorce, the breakdown of a relationship, financial changes, and having children.

Having a relevant and up to date will that reflects your current circumstances is essential. By having an up to date will in place it will offer protection for your loved ones and ensures that your assets pass in accordance with your wishes.

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Any Wills created prior to your wedding will become invalid once you marry, so you'll need to renew it soon after to avoid dying without a Will.

Since the Civil Partnership Act was passed in December 2004, members of civil partnerships have been treated the same as married couples. Any previous Wills made by either partner are automatically cancelled when a civil partnership is registered.

Divorce

If you make a will whilst married and subsequently get divorced, your divorce can change the terms of your Will. Your Will remains valid after your divorce, but your ex-spouse will no longer be included unless you specifically declare otherwise.  Any reference to your ex-spouses family will remain included unless you update your Will.

Birth of new children or grandchildren

If you have specifically named your existing children in your Will, if you have a child after making your Will, those children will not automatically become a beneficiary.  As a result, you should revise your Will as soon as possible after the birth of a child to guarantee that your wishes are followed.

You may also with to appoint a guardian for your child or children in your Will.

Purchasing a property and moving in with your partner

It is advisable that you review or update your will when purchasing a property and moving in with your partner. This is especially significant if you are not married or in a civil partnership, because in the absence of clear provisions in the deceased cohabitant's will, a surviving cohabitant is not automatically entitled to the deceased cohabitant's estate.

Receiving an inheritance

If you have inherited a significant amount of money as an inheritance from family or friends, you should examine your current will to ensure that it reflects your preferences and leaves your estate to your loved ones in the most tax-efficient manner possible.

The death of an executor

If you've prepared a will and your appointed executor passes away before you, the best thing you can do is revise your will. It may be useful to appoint more than one executor when making amendments to your Will. If one of them dies in the future, there will be another who is living to take over as executor of your estate.

Change in financial circumstances

If you obtain a substantial sum of money, or if you lose a large amount, you may wish to consider whether the provisions in your Will are benefitting your beneficiaries proportionally how you would like.  Cash legacies are paid before the beneficiaries who are receiving the residue of your estate.  In such circumstances, you may wish to consider structuring your Will in a different manner.