Having an up-to-date will can be vital for you and your loved ones. After all, this legal document sets out how you wish your assets and belongings to be allocated after you pass away. But many millions of UK adults are unlikely to have one, while lots of those who do will never update them.
In reality, having a seriously outdated will can be just as problematic as not having one at all. It may be tempting to tick this task off your to-do list and leave it filed away forever, but estate planning is best viewed as an ongoing activity.
Below, read the most pressing reasons to make a robust will and keep yours up to date.
Allocate your assets how you wish
The primary purpose of your will is to dictate what happens to your assets when you die.
Without a valid will, your estate is subject to the rules of intestacy, which decide who receives what by law. It favours married or civil partners and a few other close relatives, meaning close friends, unmarried partners, carers and relations by marriage all miss out.
A will is invalidated by a later marriage unless it references it, so if you get married after creating one, or simply lose your will altogether, your estate is likely to be distributed by the rules of intestacy instead.
Protect your beneficiaries
Updating your will is especially important if your circumstances and/or wishes change. For example, you might:
- Welcome children or grandchildren into the world
- Get married or separated
- Buy a house or other valuable assets
- Fall out with or lose a beneficiary
Including or excluding certain people in an updated will helps protect those who matter to you most.
Avoid family disputes
Disagreements and fallouts over the contents of your will are the last thing you want. Where an outdated will could lead to confusion, a well-drafted document makes it clear where everyone stands, keeping the peace after you pass.
Updating your will also helps keep it fresh in your mind while you are alive. You’ll be less likely to promise certain assets or belongings to the wrong people, for example.
Reduce inheritance tax
Your estate may be subject to inheritance tax, depending on its value. With inheritance tax receipts recently hitting record highs, it’s crucial that you plan for passing on wealth tax efficiently.
Taking advantage of the residence nil-rate band is one option, increasing your tax-free allowance when passing property to children. You may wish to account for this benefit in a newer will.
Account for changes in the law
As proven above, and just like any area of law, the regulations around wills and estates can change over time. Updating your will ensures your estate is distributed according to the most current laws, avoiding any legal pitfalls you may have been unaware of at the time of creation.
Is your will still fit for purpose?