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Putting a will in place is a crucial step in anyone’s life journey. Yet life doesn’t stand still — so it’s important to keep your will updated on a regular basis.

Most people should review their will every two to five years or in the event of a major change in your (or your loved one’s) life.

Here, Paralegal Emilija Muniute outlines five key life events after which you should consider reviewing your will.


1. Getting married or cohabiting

Marriage and civil partnerships typically revoke wills that were created prior to the event. This could leave your estate subject to rules of intestacy.

It’s possible to avoid the revocation of your will if — at the time of creating the new will — it mentions your intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the near future. However, this must be a specified marriage or civil partnership, not just a general intention.

It’s important to note that without a will, unmarried partners won’t automatically inherit anything from the other partner (except where assets are owned in joint ownership as joint tenants). It’s a common misconception that the UK recognises the ‘common law’ marriage — it doesn’t.


2. Divorce or separation

Any reference to your ex-spouse in your pre-existing will after a finalised divorce will be ignored and read as if they had pre-deceased you. This means that your ex-spouse can’t inherit or act as executor. It’s worth noting that this rule doesn’t apply following a separation or during divorce proceedings.

This is a particularly important time to review your will as you may wish to have others benefit from your estate instead. If you were to pass away before the divorce is finalised, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may inherit your entire estate and be at liberty to pass this onto a new partner, instead of your children or other intended beneficiaries.

You should be aware that a divorce is only truly finalised upon receipt of the Decree Absolute — so until this point, you should certainly consider changing your will.


3. Change of circumstance with executors or trustees

It’s critical to appoint someone that you trust to take on the responsibility of administering your estate.

While you may have carefully considered certain individuals to be your executors at the time of creating your will, this could have since changed. For instance, you might have appointed a parent as your executor when you were younger, but as you get older they may be unable to handle the responsibility that comes with being an executor.

If no replacements are named, this could result in your estate having no executors and — in some situations — could mean that your estate is governed by someone you wouldn’t want.

Similarly, if you’ve appointed any trustees in your will, their appropriateness may change over time based on age, capacity or even just your general relationship with them.


4. Having children

It’s important to put suitable provisions in place once you have children. You may want to create a trust for them and appoint trustees to manage the assets in the trust until your children are old enough to inherit.

Where you have particularly young children, it can be difficult to know how they will handle inheritance in the future, so trusts are a useful tool to allow for more control and offer a ‘wait and see’ approach to their inheritance.

Additionally, you may want to appoint a guardian who would have parental responsibility for your child while they are underage.

Even when 'future proofing' your will — such as naming any future children or grandchildren as potential beneficiaries — failing to review your will could result in other future potential beneficiaries (such as stepchildren) unwittingly losing out on inheritance. Despite common belief, references to ‘children’ in your will won’t include stepchildren.


5. Change in your financial position

Updating your will to reflect any change in your financial circumstances is crucial. For example, receiving inheritance from a loved one or selling a business could have a real impact on your estate, making it no longer appropriate to have a basic will.


Act now to reduce your risk

There is a significant risk that without careful and ongoing reviews of your will, your final wishes won't be carried out, your loved ones might experience unintended consequences and difficulties, and your hard-earned assets might be unnecessarily depleted by inheritance tax or attempting to resolve other issues or disputes.

If you need legal advice about your circumstances or would like more information about wills and wealth protection, talk to our expert private client team.

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