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Change of Circumstances? Update your Will!

Posted by Joanna Hemsley

18-11-2016

Following the surprise result of the US election last week, no doubt Donald Trump is putting in place plans for moving into the White House, whilst Barack Obama is looking to hand over the keys with a view to downsizing.

One thing neither of them should forget, nor anyone else who is planning on moving house in time for Christmas, and that is the importance of making a new will.

Moving Home – change of circumstances

Whether you are a young couple buying your first home together, or an older couple looking to downsize after your family has left home, in the excitement, it is imperative not to overlook the importance of setting out your final wishes and preparing a will.

You may think that because the extent of your estate is fairly straightforward there is no need to prepare a will.  However, your will is important as it also sets out who you would wish to be legal guardians of your children and who you want to deal with your affairs after your death (your executor).  In addition, by making a will, you can also help to make sure you do not pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.

Marriage and Divorce – the affects

It is not just following a house move that you should consider changing your will.  Marriage, for instance, immediately revokes any previous will, leaving it invalid.

Whenever you experience a life change, you should contemplate updating your will.

As family groups are joined following marriage, or separated after divorce; when updating your will, you should be aware of who may make a claim against your estate after your death (i.e. a previous spouse or a child from a previous relationship).  Family members who believe they have not been left ‘reasonable provision’ in a will can make an application under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.  In these types of claims, the court needs to be satisfied that the effect of the deceased’s will, combined with the rules on intestacy did not make reasonable financial provision for the applicant.

To help avoid such claims and to smooth expectations, it is always advisable to discuss your final wishes with your loved ones, and the reasons behind your decisions.

DIY Wills

You should also be aware of the pitfalls of making a ‘DIY’ Will.  The rules surrounding the validity of a will are strict and, if they are not followed, a will can be rendered invalid, without the testator being aware of it.

Intestate

If someone dies without having made a will (or without a valid will), they are known to have died ‘intestate’.  The intestacy rules set out the law as to which relatives inherit and, in reality, sometimes it is not always who you would wish.

Conclusion

If your circumstances have changed recently, or if it has been several years since you last updated your will, to ensure peace of mind this Christmas, or if you have any concerns regarding your estate, take independent legal advice.


Joanna Hemsley

Associate Member of CILEx
Property Disputes

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