Experts recommend checking that your will is up to date at least every five years.
While less than half the adult population has made a will, even those who have do not make sure it is kept up-to-date and accurate.
If you are among the 45% of the UK population to have made a will, then congratulations! While that is one less thing to worry about and you are in a better predicament than the majority of people, it is not enough to just make a will and leave it in a drawer or with your solicitor till the day it is finally needed.
In today’s ever more complex world, experts recommend that you check and update your will every three to five years, or even more often if your circumstances suddenly change.
What to Update?
Life does not stand still, so many circumstances might change over the course of five years. Births, deaths, marriage and divorce are the four most common reasons to change the beneficiaries of wills.
It is not just a case of who gets what. Other important questions to consider concern your executor or executors. Who are they, are their contact details still correct and, most importantly for them, are they aware of their responsibilities and do they have executor insurance in place? This ensures they are protected from legal action in the event of any legal dispute – for example a claim from the tax authorities or a creditor.
Does it Matter?
Having a will that no longer reflects your wishes is in some cases worse than having no will at all. In some cases, the beneficiary has died before the testator, leaving the Crown to decide on how an estate is to be divided.
A worse scenario is where the sole beneficiary is a former partner from a relationship that has since broken down. Of course, they will remain the beneficiary of the will, unless it is changed. You and your loved ones might understand your intentions, but that means nothing unless it is written in your will.
How to Update.
There are two ways to update your will: you can either make a new will that revokes the earlier one, or you can create a codicil. A codicil is an addendum that adds to or replaces one or more provisions in an existing will.
Which approach is best depends on your specific situation. For example, some tax provisions grant a preference to provisions in old wills but not new ones, in which case a codicil might make most sense.
In the majority of cases, however, it is probably simplest to just make a new will. Codicils were more popular in the past when creation of a new will was complex, costly and time consuming. Today, however, you or your lawyer can easily revise and reissue a will in order to keep it up to date.
Whichever way you proceed, you must ensure that the will or codicil is dated and witnessed, and that where appropriate it clearly states that it cancels and replaces the previous will.
On a final cautionary note, do not try to change a will by making written annotations, for example crossing out and replacing words in the original will. This only leads to confusion and potential conflicts.
Peter Collins is a director at LFC, an Executior Insurance provider, as well as businesses insurance and risk management advice.