When do I need to rewrite my will?
If you have a will, there are certain circumstances where you might need to rewrite your will. Here are some of them:
1. Your financial circumstances change
If you have the good fortune to come into money or substantial assets (by inheritance yourself, or perhaps selling a property or a business for a substantial gain) then you may find that you need to re-write your will. There are several reasons for this.
First, you may find that with your new, more substantial assets, the nil-rate inheritance tax band will be readily used up. So you may find that you need a new estate plan that takes greater account of the need to minimise inheritance tax, and that your new plan needs to be implemented in a new will.
Second, you may simply find that since you are in a position to leave more when you die, you have some further ideas about how to distribute your assets. For instance, if there is more than enough to provide for family, you may want to consider some additional gifts to charity or to friends.
On the other hand, if circumstances are not so kind, you may find that you are likely to leave less than you expected. So you may need to rein in an expansive will that leaves gifts to a broad group of friends and charities so that there is more available for your spouse, children or other dependents.
2. You get married
The main reason you will need to rewrite a will after you get married is that your will is automatically revoked -- unless you prepared it in anticipation of marriage.
After marriage you may also want your will to provide for your spouse financially and to take advantage of the inheritance tax planning opportunities available to a married couple (or a couple in a civil partnership).
3. You have children
On the birth or adoption of children you will almost certainly need to re-write an existing will. Not only will you want to make financial provision for your children, you will want to provide for a guardian to be appointed in the event that your children are left without parents at a young age.
4. You get divorced
Although a gift to your spouse will lapse on divorce (or the dissolution of a civil partnership), circumstances may mean that you need to re-think some aspects of your will. For instance, if your estate plan had relied heavily on a transfer of assets to your spouse on your death, you may find that after your divorce you are faced with the possibility of a large inheritance bill if your assets go to persons other than your spouse.
5. You change your mind about beneficiaries
There may be any number of reasons you might change your mind about the gifts to various beneficiaries in your will. For example, if your children grow up, marry, or otherwise become financially self-sufficient, you may decide that providing for them is no longer the priority it was when they were younger. Or perhaps your views about charitable gifts have changed. Whatever the reason, rewriting your will is your prerogative, as long as you are of sound mind and not making the changes under duress.
6. You no longer own certain assets
It may be that you’ve sold the vintage automobile that your will leaves to your best friend. Rather than run the risk of the gift to him failing since the asset will no longer form part of your estate (the technical term for this is "ademption") you may want to rewrite your will so that your best friend gets some equally coveted asset of yours. There are, of course, many variations on this theme -- and there also may be some drafting techniques you can use in your will to avoid the possibility of ademption.
Although a re-write of your will is not necessarily something you will want to do on a regular basis, there are certain life events that may make a re-write important or even essential. As with any will drafting, good advice on a re-write will go a long way toward avoiding problems and, potentially, further re-writes. Some of the changes that might compel a re-write can also present significant tax issues, and the services of a solicitor or tax advisor can help you navigate these.