None of us like the idea of having to contemplate our own death, and lots of us put off writing a Will for as long as possible.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, once someone has made a Will, it’s easy for them to put it to the back of their mind, and not give it any more thought.
The problem is, a will needs to be kept updated; if not, there is a risk it won’t be valid.
Review your Will
Once you’ve drawn up this vital piece of paperwork, it is important to review it periodically.
That way, you can make sure it is up-to-date with your circumstances and wishes – as well as the current rules on inheritance tax.
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How often should you revisit your Will?
As a rule of thumb, you should look to review your will every five years or so to ensure it still says what you want it to say.
That said, if you have experienced any major changes in your life – such as divorce, marriage, re-marriage, or having a child – you need to act sooner.
Other changes that could affect your will could include moving home, moving abroad, and a change in your financial circumstances.
How to get your Will right
Wills and marriage
It’s vital to revisit your Will when you get married, as the act of tying the knot cancels any Will you made before.
Wills and divorce
While getting divorced doesn’t revoke a Will, you may need to create a whole new Will to ensure your assets pass to the people you want them to.
How to protect your financial assets if you get divorced
Wills and children
If you have children – or grandchildren – you might want to change who gets what.
Annie Shaw: Locating heirs
Take action if an executor dies
Another scenario where it’s essential to revisit your Will is if a named executor passes away.
An executor is the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in your Will when you die.
If that person dies before you, you will need to alter your document.
Can you remove an executor from a Will?
How to amend your Will
It is not possible to make changes once a will has been signed and witnessed. In this scenario, you can only make changes by making an official alteration, called a codicil.
A codicil should only be used for making small changes to your will, such as changing the executors, or adding a legacy. This additional document should not be attached or stapled to your will, and must be witnessed to be legal.
There are no limits on how many codicils you can add to a will, but you will face additional charges for these.
That said, adding a codicil is usually cheaper than writing a new will.
Making a new will
If your circumstances have changed significantly, you should look to write a new will, rather than add codicils.
The same applies if you’re looking to change several parts of your old will.
If you do start afresh, your new will should set out that the new document officially cancels all earlier wills and codicils.
Once you’ve made a new will you should destroy your old one by tearing it up, shredding it, or burning it.
If you fail to do this, two wills could be found, and this could lead to confusion after your death.
Money expert Annie Shaw answers a reader's question on executorship:
My wife and I have been customers of the Yorkshire Bank since we were first married 55 years ago.
Some 40 years ago we appointed the bank as executor of our wills, which we had stored at the local branch.
During a recent visit to the bank I asked what the current charges were for executorship, and was told that the bank no longer performs this job itself but instead uses a firm of solicitors.
What are the Yorkshire Bank’s and the solicitors’ duties and responsibilities with regard to this arrangement?
Anyone who has been named as the executor of a will and hasn’t yet started work on the estate can renounce the role. I imagine, however, that in this case the bank has not renounced its role but appointed solicitors to do legal work that it can no longer manage in-house.
What alarms me rather more than the appointment of solicitors is the fact that clearly you have not reviewed your will for more than 40 years.
There have been many changes in the law and taxation system in the past four decades and possibly also to your own circumstances.
A local solicitor specialising in wills might suit your needs better than the bank nowadays, particularly if you want a more personal relationship.
Always use a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society and don’t try to cut corners, as money saved now by using an unregulated will-writer could be dwarfed by costs to your heirs incurred in sorting out problems.
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