Questionnaire: Should I Alter or Rewrite My Will?
From the outset: congratulations. The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you have already taken the important step of writing a first will. This will have a potentially huge effect on the treatment of your affairs after your death, ensuring that your estate is distributed as you would wish.
Frequently, however, simply writing a will is not enough. In order to remain effective, your will must be updated in line with any major life events that may occur. This two-part questionnaire will help you determine whether or not your will requires revision and, secondly, whether you should make alterations to your existing will or start again from scratch.
Should I revisit my will?
1 Have you had children since you wrote your will?
2 Have you been married or divorced since you wrote your will?
3 Has the value of your estate increased significantly since you wrote your will?
4 If so, does the total value of your assets now exceed the Inheritance Tax nil-rate band (set at £312,000 for the 2008-09 tax year)?
5 Have any of your named executors or beneficiaries died, or made clear that they do not wish to be included in the document, since you wrote your will?
If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, you should definitely revisit your will. Marriage or divorce is probably the most common prompt for the rewriting of a will, but any of the other events listed above should cause you to revisit the document. In particular, an increase in the value of your estate such that it now exceeds the nil-rate band for IHT can have huge tax implications for your beneficiaries. You should look into establishing trusts to minimise your exposure as a matter of urgency.
Should I rewrite my will, or amend it?
1 Did you write your will without the help of a solicitor?
2 Do you wish to establish a trust in your will?
3 Have you been married or divorced since you last wrote your will?
4 Do your desired changes exceed renaming or altering your executors or beneficiaries?
If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, you should almost certainly rewrite your will, rather than altering the existing document. Major changes like those listed above may require a restructuring of the document that could not be achieved through alteration or addition.
On the other hand, if your desired changes are simple, such as naming new beneficiaries or executors, an addition to your existing will may be sufficient. This is achieved through the use of a codicil, which is attached to the will. It must be signed and witnessed in the same manner as the will itself, and takes precedence over it in the event of a conflict.
If you are unsure about a suitable course of action, you should always contact a solicitor. A will that is incorrect or irrelevant is frequently no more use than not having a will at all, and it therefore makes sense to spend a little time getting it right.