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Keeping Your Will Up-to-Date

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 28 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Will Date Current Free Service Estate

If you have written a will then you have made a fantastic start in the process of ensuring that your intentions, both financial and otherwise, are carried out as you would have wished after your death.

The act of making a will, indeed, places you in a relatively small proportion of people in the UK whose estate should avoid intestacy laws. However, making one will to last you your entire life may well not be enough. Significant changes may well occur between the time at which you write your will and the time of your death, and these may well have an effect on the content of the document. As a result, it is vitally important that you keep your will up to date.

Life Events

It is generally thought that you should review the content of your will at the time of a major ‘life event’. These might include a change in your financial circumstances; the birth of a child; the death of a close relative; a change in your living arrangements; and, perhaps most importantly, a marriage, civil partnership or divorce. Any of these events may have a significant impact on your will, and on your intentions with regards to the disbursement of your estate.

Keeping your will up to date is, in many ways, of equal importance to creating the document in the first place. Indeed, if you don’t ensure that your will is as current as possible, it may cause serious legal problems after your death. If, for example, you marry after writing your will but there is no mention of the impending marriage in the document, then there is a good chance that the entire document will be declared invalid, and that your estate will be dealt with according to the laws of intestacy.

Similarly, if you have a child after having written your will, they may not automatically become a beneficiary even if you have named your other children. As a result, in order to ensure that your wishes are carried out, you must update the document when events such as these occur.

Re-writing

After particularly significant events, such as the death of a spouse or civil partner, you may wish to re-write the entire will. At the beginning of every will is a sentence outlining the fact that the current document revokes all previous such documents; this means that, were you to write a completely new will, the previous document would no longer have any legal relevance. It is also possible, however, that you may wish simply to alter certain parts of your will (for example to add or remove a beneficiary). This is also perfectly possible but, as with the process of writing the document to begin with, it is recommended that you do so under the guidance of a legal professional. Many people worry about the cost of doing this, but it should be minimal; indeed, if you are over 55 you should qualify for Cancer Research’s Free Will Service, which will allow you to employ a local solicitor to make the changes, at no cost to you.

You should remember, however, that costs may be incurred if you are employing a third party to store your will. The UK Will Registry, for example, requires a small fee (currently around £20) for each time you make an alteration. However, given the potential drawbacks of not keeping the document up to date, this would seem like money well spent.

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Helmar - Your Question:
My wife had a child while in a relationship before we were married. I wanted to take him on as my own but my in laws would not allow this, and they legally adopted him.Does my wife or myself have any legal requirement to include him in our wills, as this was over 50 years ago and we now have no knowledge of his location or state of health, and my in laws have now passed away.

Our Response:
No, if a child is adopted they lose the normal inheritance rights.
TheWillExpert - 1-Aug-17 @ 12:48 PM
My wife had a child while in a relationship before we were married. I wanted to take him on as my own but my in laws would not allow this, and they legally adopted him.Does my wife or myself have any legal requirement to include him in our wills, as this was over 50 years ago and we now have no knowledge of his location or state of health, and my in laws have now passed away.
Helmar - 28-Jul-17 @ 8:13 PM
Lily - Your Question:
I made a will about 20 years ago through a solicitor. Since then I have had 2 grandchildren and my property has increased in value. I am retired and short of cash though so to save solicitor's costs: 1.Can I buy a DIY will form and redo it myself ? (I know it has to be witnessed) 2. If using a solicitor is recommended, can an online solicitor be less expensive than visiting a solicitor (the last time my will was updated, when I was divorced, it cost over £200 ten+ years ago)3. Also, the wills through the solicitor are very 'wordy' and, I think, difficult to understand. Can a simplified Will, in everyday language still be regarded as legal ?

Our Response:
It is possible to write your own Will if your affairs are likely to be relatively straightforward. If you share your home with someone who's not a spouse, have a children from two marriages, more than one home or a business then it's advisable to use a solicitor. The money advice service offers this advice.
If you do decide to write a new Will yourself, then make sure you state clearly at the beginning of the Will that this Will ...revokes all previous Wills etc.
If you want to look at cheaper options for getting your Will written professionally:
1. Check any insurance policies that you have...some have an "add on" free will writing service
2. Some charities have free Will writing services in the hope you will make a donation or bequest (but this needn't be as expensive as a solicitor so it might be worth considering).
If you act quickly, October is "Free Wills month" where a group of well-respected charities offers members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their simple Wills written or updated free of charge by using participating solicitors in selected locations around England and Wales. The same thing is held in March each year too. Again, it's expected that you give/leave something to the charity of your choice.
TheWillExpert - 8-Oct-15 @ 12:19 PM
I made a will about 20 years ago through a solicitor. Since then I have had 2 grandchildren and my property has increased in value. I am retired and short of cash though so to save solicitor's costs: 1.Can I buy a DIY will form and redo it myself ? (I know it has to be witnessed) 2. If using a solicitor is recommended, can an online solicitor be less expensive than visiting a solicitor (the last time my will was updated, when I was divorced, it cost over £200 ten+ years ago) 3. Also, the wills through the solicitor are very 'wordy' and, I think, difficult to understand. Can a simplified Will, in everyday language still be regarded as legal ?
Lily - 8-Oct-15 @ 8:37 AM
Ginge - Your Question:
We are beneficiary of a will the problem is we can not locate a will or executor.A will was made out to another couple in 1995.We also believed that he had no family until the day of his funneralWe have rented his property for 20 years he said to treat the property as our own so over the years we have done a lot of work with his permission.For him to say by e.mail that the house is ours if anything was to happen to him. Would this be a legal document against the original will.How would we stand against his siblings which they obviously had a family feud before 1995.

Our Response:
Steps will be taken to find a Will during the probate process. If one cannot be found, you will need to supply any details including the email to a solicitor to establish its legality. If the family members are his children, then under the rules of intestacy, they inherit. If there are no children, the siblings inherit. If you wanted to contest this, a solicitor might help, but you may have to be prepared to go to court.
TheWillExpert - 8-Sep-15 @ 10:48 AM
We are beneficiary of a will the problem is we can not locate a will or executor. A will was made out to another couple in 1995. We also believed that he had no family until the day of his funneral We have rented his property for 20 years he said to treat the property as our own so over the years we have done a lot of work with his permission. For him to say by e.mail that the house is ours if anything was to happen to him. Would this be a legal document against the original will. How would we stand against his siblings which they obviously had a family feud before 1995.
Ginge - 5-Sep-15 @ 1:39 PM
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