The importance of a Will review – keeping up to date

Year Published: 2022

Helen Gowin explains the importance of a will review and keeping them up to date.

Many of us put off making a Will, particularly when we are younger, but when we do get round to putting one in place we often assume that it’s a document which only needs to be made once. It is however important to keep a Will under review particularly when circumstances change. Here are some common issues which may affect whether your estate will pass to those you are expecting it to:


I’ve made a Will leaving everything to my other half


It is not uncommon to make a Will merely leaving everything to your husband or wife with no further provisions. Sometimes there is an assumption that the survivor will then make a new Will so there is no need to include any further provisions in the original Will for other beneficiaries. It is however still important to make sure that you include a substitution in your Will. There is no guarantee that just because you are younger or healthier than your other half, that they will die before you. Even if you have survived and inherited everything, you may not feel like updating your Will follow your bereavement. In time you may not even have the mental capacity to do so. You should therefore include provision for other beneficiaries to make sure that if you your estate will go to the person you want it to. If you survive and had just left everything to your spouse in your Will but they have already died, then your estate will pass under the intestacy rules to relatives you may not necessarily want to benefit.


I’ve recently got married


A marriage or a civil partnership will revoke your Will. Unless you make a new Will when your marital status changes then on your death your estate will be intestate. It will be distributed in accordance with the law and may find that your estate does not pass to those you intended it to. If for instance you have been divorced and had made a new Will to reflect your change of status but then later re-marry, this will revoke your Will and you will die intestate. You may have children who will then inherit anyway but if you don’t then your estate may pass to your nearest blood relatives who you may not be expecting to benefit.


One of my beneficiaries has witnessed my signature


Anyone can be a witness to a Will provided they are over 18 and have mental capacity, but if you have left something in your Will to a beneficiary who then witnesses your signature when you sign your Will, this invalidates their gift.  You should therefore make sure that any witness is independent of you to make sure they get the gift intended for them.


I’ve made a Will but I want to make some small changes which I have done by hand on the original document


You may want to update some of the gifts you left in your original Will. You may have left money to a relative you no longer have contact with or you may want to change the amounts of legacies you are leaving. If you cross out some of the gifts on your Will or if you add extra clauses and these are not signed and witnessed correctly the original gifts will still stand and the changes would not take effect.  It is better to make a Codicil which is an additional document to your Will or you should make a new Will so that these changes take effect.


I’ve lost the original Will but I still have a copy


If the original Will cannot be found when you die there is a presumption in law that you revoked the Will, for example by destroying it. If you still held a copy of the Will it may still be possible to prove to the Court that this is your last Will but there would have to be enough proof to show that it had not been your intention to destroy the original and that the copy still reflected your last wishes.


There could therefore be a number of reasons why on your death your estate will be intestate even though you had put a Will in place. If the rules of intestacy are followed, your nearest blood relatives inherit. This could mean your parents, or your brothers or sisters. If you don’t have any siblings the estate is then divided between uncles and aunts or their children. It could mean that an extensive family tree would have to be put together and beneficiaries traced. This could take time and would be expensive. You may not have even met some of them. If you have kept your Will under review and make changes when your circumstances change at least you will have the opportunity to benefit those you want to.


To speak to someone about updating your Will please contact Helen Gowin on 01260 282351/[email protected] or Amy Hayes on 01260 282343/ [email protected]

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