Do you need to make any changes at all?
Motivating yourself to make your will can be difficult. Reviewing it from time to time is something that you are more likely to put off.
If your circumstances haven’t changed since you made your will, you might think you don’t need to make any amendments. However, you also need to consider whether the law might have changed in that time – particularly if you have done any estate planning.
When you write your will, you can plan for a number of circumstances in advance, such as what happens if one of your beneficiaries dies before you, or if your executor feels he or she cannot take up the position. It should also anticipate what might happen if the value of your estate changes by making some gifts take precedence over others.
However, it is not wise to over-plan in your will as it may make interpreting it difficult for your executors and may not cater for the circumstances at your death in any case.
Better is to reconsider it at certain points during your lifetime.
When should you reconsider your will?
If you divorce, your will stays valid. Your ex-husband or ex-wife could be your main beneficiary to the detriment of who you really now want to inherit (such as your children). So you should definitely review your will once your divorce has completed.
If you marry, any previous will becomes invalid, unless you have specifically said that it shouldn’t. By default, the rules of intestacy decide who inherits your estate. These rules may accidentally disinherit children from earlier marriages.
You can read further about how marriage and divorce affect your will.
If an important beneficiary dies, then the impact of his or her death may lead you to reconsider how you want to distribute your estate. Your priorities might change. You might also receive a gift from the beneficiary.
You may dispose of a high value asset that you were going to leave to someone as a significant part of their inheritance. The most common example is that you sell your home to downsize, perhaps to free cash for care.
Lastly, there may be circumstances where changes in your beneficiaries’ lives change how a gift might be received. Your children might have children, they might divorce (and you want to prevent your estate from being used by the ex-spouse), or they might marry.
How often should you check your will?
As a rule of thumb, you should check that your will still reflects your wishes and your current circumstances at least every five years. A big family event can also act as a reminder.
You should consider whether the value of your estate has moved over the nil rate band at which inheritance tax is paid (£325,000 at a minimum in 2022/23 but more if you own your home). You should also consider whether your beneficiaries still inherit in the way you want.