You might feel like writing a will is a one-and-done process, but it’s crucial to regularly review it, especially if your circumstances have changed..
It’s a good idea to make a habit of reviewing your will at least every five or so years, or whenever you go through a big life change, for example getting divorced or remarried..
Here, we discuss when to review your will, and how to update it if it no longer reflects your current wishes.
Why write a will?
Writing a will is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. Don’t be put off if you’re worried it will be complicated – there are a number of will-writing services and legal specialists who can help make the process as simple as possible.
Even though your estate can still be passed on if you die without a will – also known as dying “intestate” – it might not be distributed in the way that you want, and can cause additional stress to your friends and family if they are left without clear instructions for who gets what. Writing a will gives you the ability to clarify your wishes and prevent any family disputes. You can read more about the reasons to draw up a will in our article The importance of writing a will.
Which? provide an easy and affordable way to write your will and ensure the people you care about are looked after when you’re gone.
They’ve done everything they can to make the process as straightforward as possible, including printing and delivery to your door. You can even get your will reviewed by their specialists to make sure it’s completed correctly.
Prices start at £99.
How often should I check my will?
Generally speaking, you should aim to review your will at least once every five years. This will give you the chance to take stock and see whether your wishes for your estate have remained the same or evolved over time.
However there are a few situations where you should strongly consider reviewing your will straight away. Here’s a list of the main examples:
You’ve gotten married or divorced
It is really important to review your will if you’ve recently married, or are planning to marry. This is because, when you get married, your previous will is effectively voided, meaning it won’t be legally binding any more (unless your will was written to specifically refer to the upcoming marriage). If you die without writing a new one, you’ll effectively be treated as if you’ve died intestate, and your assets will be distributed as such. Read more about intestacy laws in our article Sorting out an estate when someone dies without a will.
If you get divorced, it’s slightly different. Your will still applies, but your ex-spouse will be excluded from it, and your estate may be divided differently to how you intended. It is almost always a good idea to review and update your will in this situation.
Alternatively, if you have entered into a new relationship since writing your will, but you haven’t married them or entered into a civil partnership, they will not be entitled to anything if you die, unless you have a will which outlines what you want to leave them. You may therefore wish to review your will and update it to include them.
A change in the family
Changes in the family are a very good reason to revisit your will and think about any potential changes you might want to make. For example, you might want to include a child, grandchild, niece or nephew that’s recently arrived, or take someone out if they have died.
You might also rethink someone’s inheritance if they’ve got married or divorced, or they have undergone any significant financial changes which might have left them better or worse off.
The executor of your will is someone who you choose to carry out the job of managing your estate and making sure your assets are distributed as desired.
You might decide you want to change your executor, for example if they have died or you aren’t sure they will be up to the task, or you can opt to add more executors just in case.
Learn more about the role of an executor in our article What is an executor?
A change in your finances
Significant changes in your financial situation are a good reason to review and potentially update your will, as you may now have the ability to leave considerably more or less than before. For example, it may be the case that you have bought or sold property, you have retired or your income has otherwise changed, or you have stopped or started investing, leaving you better or worse off than previously.
New funeral arrangements
Your will is a convenient way to lay out your wishes for your funeral. If you have changed your mind about any of your funeral arrangements, then it’s worth updating your will to reflect this.
How do I change my will?
Most of the time, the best way to make significant changes to your will is by drafting a new one. While it can seem like a pain, making sure your will is as up to date as possible is the best way to prevent confusion down the line and make sure that your estate is passed along smoothly.
For very small edits or amends, you could consider writing a ‘codicil’ to your will instead. This is a document that can make legally binding changes to your will without requiring you to write a new one altogether. It can be drawn up with the help of a solicitor or will writing service, and then must be signed and witnessed like a normal will.
Bear in mind that codicils are typically only suitable for smaller changes. For anything more substantial, you are probably better off getting a full rewrite. Read more in our article Changing a will: what is a codicil and when do you need one?
Whether you are writing your will for the first time or updating it, it’s a good idea to take measures so that it can’t be disputed. Read about how to do this in our article 10 ways to make sure your will isn’t challenged.