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This is a question that we often ask clients – and in some cases, it emerges that they do not currently have a will at all. Given that dying without a will – or intestate as it’s called in legal language – can lead to many potential problems and areas of controversy it’s always our recommendation to remedy the situation as soon as they possibly can.

But, even if you do have a will, it’s very important that you consider whether you are still happy with how your estate will be passed on when you die and regularly review whether your wishes might have changed.

Our general advice is that every five years or so is a good period to review your will. This is because, even if you haven’t gone through any major life changes, which we’ll get on to next, the laws around inheritance taxes and allowances can alter. This might mean that greater tax liabilities need to be considered, as well as possible ways to mitigate them.


Life changes that mean your will should be reviewed

Any of the following events in your life mean that may be very important to alter your will to take them into account:

  • If you have new children or grandchildren. You are likely to want to ensure they are included in your will and it may even be the case that you want to nominate a guardian for your children in the event of the death of both you and your partner.
  • If you get married. In England and Wales, getting married will revoke an existing will, unless it was made in contemplation of the marriage. So if you don’t specifically create a new will it may be that you are effectively intestate.
  • If you get divorced. When you divorce the law treats it as if your ex-spouse has predeceased you. You may also have a new partner and even step-children who you might want to include in your new will.
  • If someone named in your will dies before you. In this situation, it’s important that you understand what will happen to the gift that you meant to go to the chosen beneficiary and to make sure that you’re happy for the alternative to take place.
  • If the executor is no longer suitable or dies.  It’s important that any executors named in your will are able and prepared to administer your estate. So it’s vital to review their suitability and willingness on a regular basis.

Updating your will with a codicil 

It is always possible to make small changes to your will by making a codicil. This must be executed in the same way as a will, preferably by a solicitor, and it must also always refer to the will that it is changing.

While creating a codicil maybe a little cheaper than making a completely new will, it is not something that is used very often these days. The reason for this is as much a practical as a legal one.

Codicils were used more often in the past when wills had to be painstakingly written out by hand. Now that computer software makes it quick and easy to copy and alter the contents of a will it is a tidier solution to have just one new document setting out your wishes.

Talk to us for guidance

At Eatons, we are experts in the field of will writing and are ideally placed to help you review all aspects of your estate and how you would like it divided when the time comes. So whether you already have a will, or this will be your first, please contact us today.



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