3 April 2019
By Andrew Steel (Associate Solicitor – Jacksons Law Firm)
Staggeringly, only around half of the British population has made and executed a valid Will. For many reasons, enough to fill an article on its own, this is quite alarming.
The focus of this article, however, is why you should keep your Will under review.
Changes in legislation
Whilst changes to the laws of Wills and Probate are thankfully few and far between, changes to law can have an effect on the validity or otherwise of your Will. Therefore, if you have a Will that is several decades old (this is more common than you would think!) it is worth consulting your solicitor to check things are OK with your Will.
Changes in taxation
Changes in taxation are far more common. Until the latter stages of the last decade spouses had to make convoluted Wills (known as Nil Rate Band Discretionary Trust Wills) to take advantage of their individual allowances for Inheritance Tax. This is now not required as a married couple can leave all of their estate to the surviving spouse including their full (or partial) tax allowance. The old convoluted Wills, however, were OK to leave in place due to their neutral tax treatment. However, more subsequent changes to taxation now mean that these Wills are not advantageous as they could lead to the loss of an extra relief for people with houses in their estates which they are passing to their children or remoter descendants.
Divorce is a major change in circumstances and whilst the divorce itself removes all aspects of the Will in favour of the divorced spouse, it is more sensible to actually put something in place. If you are in the process of a divorce it is also sensible to put into place a Will to try and ring fence some assets in case you were to die before the divorce actually goes through.
Marriage revokes any previously made Will (unless made in contemplation of marriage) therefore if you have recently married, or are going to get married soon, it is essential to review your Will.
There is no such thing as a common law spouse. The law will not make automatic provision in favour of a cohabitee.
You need to regularly review your executors (who will look after your monies for your children in your estate) and your guardians (who will look after the actual children!) to ensure that they are still the right people to take on this role. Often parents appoint people of their own generation to take on this role who may do something as simple as move area which would then make it a less suitable appointment. People also often appoint their own, or an older generation as executors, whereas realistically as soon as the children are old enough (the law says 18 but you may say otherwise!) they should really start taking over the role as an executor in place of their aunt, uncle, grandparents etc.
Passage of time
Time changes people and relationships. Wills are very personal documents and regular review can prevent upset or misunderstanding on the death of a loved one.
A Will in some ways should be treated like an investment and therefore reviewed on a yearly or two-yearly basis. The easiest way I find to keep your Will under constant review is to enter a recurring reminder into your electronic diary, whether that be on your telephone or computer, which simply says “Have cup of tea/coffee and review Will”. Most of the time I can guarantee that you will not get more than one or two sips into your choice of beverage before you are putting your Will back in the envelope.
If you do look at your Will, and something alarms you, we are more than happy to help. We have drop in sessions in our Teesside office on Wednesdays or in our Newcastle -office on Thursdays and we would be happy to carry out a 20-minute review of your Will free of charge. If you would like any information on making a Will or reviewing your Will, please contact Andrew Steel on 01642 356 3500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As one of the leading firms of accountants in the North East, with offices in Newcastle, Sunderland and Jarrow, we have the expertise to advise you on a wide range of accountancy, tax and business issues. If you would like to speak to one of our local experts, please call 0191 567 8611 or e-mail email@example.com.