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Revising Your Will

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 2 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Revising Will Death Testator Life Events

If you have already written your will, you have placed yourself in a privileged (and sensible) minority of the British population. This document will help to ensure that your wishes are met and your assets distributed in accordance with your intentions after your death.

However, while a worryingly small proportion of British adults have a Will, an even smaller number have a will that is up to date. The importance of ensuring that this document is current and relevant to your present situation cannot be overestimated. This process of periodic revision is just as important as the initial writing.

Changing Estates

By definition, your will should include precise information regarding the assets in your possession (see our article Structuring Your Will). Without knowing the exact extent of your estate, it is impossible to make provision for its disbursement, and so the first step in initially writing a will is to determine what you own. However, few individuals’ estate will remain constant for the rest of their lives. Instead, they will be changing all the time as new assets are acquired and old ones are sold or lost. If your will has not kept up with these changes, then it is irrelevant, and of very limited use.

The general rule is that your will should be revised after a major ’life event’. This includes, but is certainly not limited to:

  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of children
  • Purchase of a house
Indeed, the first of these events is perhaps the most important. Unless you stipulate in your will that your instructions should apply to any future spouse or civil partner (which very few people do, having not envisioned divorce or the death of their spouse), if you divorce then any passages relating to your spouse or civil partner at the time of writing will be considered invalid. Aside from the effects on your beneficiaries, this can have severe tax consequences, as the assets that would have been passed on will be absorbed into the remainder of the estate. In some cases, particularly if you have already made provision for the mitigation of your Inheritance Tax liability, this absorption can mean that your estate is pushed over the Nil-Rate Band and will therefore be taxed.

More Tax Efficiency

Tax efficiency is one of the major reasons for keeping your will up to date. Planning for minimising your inheritance tax liability relies, of course, on a sound knowledge of your estate, and the choices that you make will be informed totally by its total value and constituent parts. As a result, if you were, for example, to buy a larger house, any plans that you had made could well be thwarted as the value of your estate will have changed. This is also true for those who choose to pursue equity release schemes in order to free up some extra cash; unless you revise your will subsequently, these actions could potentially do as much harm as good.

Finally, revising your will need not be an expensive task. It is always recommended that you seek the help of a professional where possible in these cases, but for a simple alteration (such as might be required after the purchase of a house) there should be a fairly minimal charge. You should note, however, that the establishment of trusts and other similar actions may carry their own associated costs.

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