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Does your will need a New Year health check?

View profile for Ben Jones
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The start of a new year is an excellent time to take stock and put your affairs in order.  One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to make a will and ensure it is regularly reviewed and updated.  

Your personal circumstances and those of your executors, trustees, guardians and beneficiaries will change over time and it is vital that your will reflects these changes.  It is also vital that your will takes account of any changes in the law or tax rules governing wills to ensure your will remains valid and as tax efficient as possible.  

Ben Jones, wills and probate solicitor at Hancock Quins Solicitors in Watford, explains how to health check your will and decide whether a review or update is needed.

Health check questions

  • Was your will prepared by a solicitor or by you using a DIY kit?  If you prepared your will yourself you need to have it reviewed by a wills and probate specialist to ensure that it is valid and accurately reflects your wishes.  Simple errors in the way a will is prepared can lead to it being invalid; for example, not having it signed and witnessed properly.  An invalid will is as useless as no will at all and will result in your estate being dealt with under the rules of intestacy.  These rules determine who can inherit your estate and how much they should get and may not deal with your estate in the way you would like it to be dealt with.  
  • Has your name or address changed since your will was prepared?  If it has then your personal details need to be updated. 
  • Has your marital status changed since you made your will?  If it has then you need to check the wording of your will to see if it remains valid; this is because in most cases a will made before marriage will be invalidated once a marriage has taken place.  In most cases, it will be necessary for you and your spouse to make a new will.
  • Are you still happy with any executors or trustees named in your will and, if so, are their names and addresses up-to-date?  If you have lost touch with an executor or trustee, or if they have moved out of the area and are therefore not as accessible as they used to be, it may be necessary to appoint other people to these important roles.  
  • Have you had children since you made your will?  If so you need to think about appointing a guardian to look after them in case you die before they reach the age of 18.  If you have already appointed a guardian you need to think about whether you are still happy with your choice; if you are not, then you will need to nominate someone else. 
  • Have you left any specific gifts in your will which you have since sold or given away?  If you have, you need to think about making provision for a replacement gift as the original gift will fail. 
  • Have you included everyone in your will that you would like to include as a beneficiary?  For example, have you had more children or grandchildren since you made your will who you would like to make provision for?  If so, you need to revisit your will and make any necessary adjustments.
  • If you are not including all your children in your will, do you have a statement or letter of wishes accompanying your will explaining why you have chosen to do this?  If not, you need to prepare a statement or letter of wishes.  This is particularly important if there may be disgruntled beneficiaries who are prepared to challenge your will because you have decided to exclude them.
  • Have you included substitutionary provisions in your will to cover what should happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you?  If not, you need to do this because it may cause what is called a ‘partial intestacy’ which means that your estate might not pass to who you intend.
To review the terms of your existing will, or to make a new will, please contact Ben Jones, on 01923 650852 or email bjones@hancockquins.co.uk

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. 
 

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