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Home / Making a Will / Changing your Will / Keeping your will up to date

Your will is your opportunity to ensure that your estate is dealt with and distributed in accordance with your wishes upon your death and to ensure that any children you may have are looked after by those whom you would entrust with their care.

It is important having prepared a will that you ensure that it is kept up to date. It may be that your wishes have changed since you prepared your will and a new will or a codicil will be required to reflect these.

Life changing situations can also have an effect on your will and you should always review your will if one of the following events takes place:

Marriage and civil partnership

If you have married or entered into a civil partnership since your will was prepared your will was automatically revoked upon your marriage or civil partnership unless your will specifically stated that it was made in contemplation of the marriage or civil partnership to the person with whom you have married or entered into a civil partnership with. For wills made in contemplation of marriage on or after 1 January 1982 and for wills made in contemplation of civil partnerships there must also be a clear intention that the will should not be revoked by the marriage or civil partnership.

If your will is revoked by marriage or a civil partnership and you fail to prepare a new will your estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. The rules of intestacy may result in your assets being distributed other than in accordance with your wishes. For this reason most couples are advised to make a new will after they marry or enter into a civil partnership.

Divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership

Unlike marriage, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership does not revoke a will. However, when a “decree absolute” (a court order which finalises a divorce) is made or, in the case of a civil partnership, a “decree of dissolution” (a court order which brings a civil partnership to an end) is made, any provisions contained in a will which benefit the ex-spouse or ex-civil partner are automatically revoked. Similarly, any provision appointing an ex-spouse or ex-civil partner as an executor or trustee will also be automatically revoked.

If in your will you specified beneficiaries other than your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner then your estate will pass to such beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of your will.

If your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner was the only beneficiary named in your will your estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. The rules of intestacy may result in your estate being distributed other than in accordance with your wishes.

If your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner was the only executor appointed by you then the Court will appoint someone to administer your estate.

If your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner is named as the sole or main beneficiary in your will it is generally a good idea to prepare a fresh will once a decree absolute or a decree of dissolution has been made.

Separation from your spouse or civil partner

If you separate from your spouse or civil partner any gifts made in your will to your spouse or civil partner will take affect unless a decree absolute or decree of dissolution has been made. Similarly, if in your will you appointed your spouse or civil partner as your executor or trustee such provision will take affect unless a decree absolute or decree of dissolution has been made.

If you do not want your spouse or civil partner to benefit under the terms of your will or you do not want them to act as your executor or trustee you should prepare a new will or a codicil.

Death of a beneficiary, executor, trustee or guardian

If the beneficiaries to your will die before you then your estate will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy. The rules of intestacy may result in your assets being distributed other than in accordance with your wishes. For this reason you may wish to prepare a new will.

If the executors, trustees or guardians named in your will die before you then the Court will appoint new ones. If you have appointed guardians to look after your children upon your death and those guardians die before you, your children could be taken into care pending the appointment by the Court of new guardians. This could take several months.

The birth of a child

It is common for wills to be drafted so as to make provision for any of the deceased’s surviving children or grandchildren to inherit their estate upon their death. However, this is not always the case. If in your will you specifically named your children or grandchildren and further children or grandchildren have been born subsequently they will not benefit from your estate unless you prepare a new will or a codicil.

Changes in your financial position

If your financial position has drastically changed since you prepared your will, for example if you have inherited a large sum of money it may be sensible to prepare a new will so as to ensure that any tax liability your estate may have is kept to a minimum.

If you have set up a business since your will was prepared it may be desirable to prepare a fresh will to ensure that your business is able to remain trading in the manner you would wish after your death.

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Single Will or Mirror Wills?

If you are a couple and wish to leave all your assets to each other then you could save money by making  Mirror Wills. You can also use Mirror Wills if you whish to leave your estate to the same beneficiaries. 
 
If you wish to leave different legacies, appoint different executors or you would like to specify individual funeral wishes then you will need to make two Single Wills.
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