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New Normal – Is your Will right for you?

Posted on May 28th 2021

As we steer towards a ‘new normal,’ many people are choosing to revisit their existing Will or to make a Will for the first time.

Here are five examples that may mean that it is time to make a Will or review your existing Will:-

  1. Marriage
  2. Purchasing a property
  3. Divorce
  4. Inheritance tax / change in the law
  5. Change in family circumstances

 

 

Marriage

If you have made a Will prior to marriage then the previous Will would be automatically revoked by the act of marriage, unless it contained a specialist contemplation of marriage clause, meaning that your Will would no longer be valid and your Estate would not therefore be distributed in accordance with your wishes outlined in your earlier Will.

If you choose not to make a Will then it may mean that your Estate passes in accordance with the ‘intestacy rules’, which may mean that your Estate passes in a way that you would not want it to. It can be particularly problematic if you have children from a previous relationship as it may mean that they receive significantly less from your Estate than you initially intended.

Purchasing a Property

Owning your own home is a really exciting step, but sadly many people don’t appreciate the importance of making a Will. As this is likely to be the greatest financial purchase of your life, it is really important to protect your loved ones and make sure your home passes in the way that you would like it to pass if you were to die unexpectedly.

When you purchase a property, your conveyancing solicitor will ask you whether you would like to own your home as either ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common.’ This is a really important decision from a Wills point of view, as if you own a property as ‘joint tenants’ then the property would pass to the survivor of you regardless of what any Will states.

If however, you own your property as ‘tenants in common,’ then this means it is possible to leave your share of your property in your Will to anyone you like. It may mean that you could give the survivor of you the right to live in the property for their lifetime, but then ultimately your share passes to someone else, for example, your children. Many people find this option particularly appealing as although it is not nice to think about, if you were to die prematurely and in your Will you chose to leave your entire Estate to the survivor of you, then the survivor of you could choose to amend their Will and not provide for the people who you wanted to benefit and they could for example, benefit a new spouse instead.

Divorce

If you are recently divorced, then it is important to get your affairs in order. From a Wills point of view, if you have benefitted your ex-spouse in your Will, then on any subsequent divorce, your ex-spouse is treated as having died before you meaning that they will not benefit from any gift to them in a Will made prior to your divorce.

However, a divorced spouse may still bring a claim against your Estate and seek a court order that they were not adequately financially provided for in your Will if for example you financially maintained them in any way and therefore it is crucial that you update your Will so that your intentions are clear. It is also important to update any life assurance or pension nomination forms indicating where you would like the proceeds or lump sum payments to be made to after your death.

Inheritance Tax / Changes in the law

It is important to appreciate that the law is subject to change and we always recommend that you revisit any existing Will you may have made to check that it is still in accordance with your wishes.

In recent times following the COVID19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of charitable legacies included in Wills.

Gifts to charities in a Will are free from inheritance tax and many people do feel that they would like to recognise a charity in their Will that has helped them during their lifetime or is close to their hearts. It is worth noting that if you choose to leave 10% of your Estate to a charity in your Will then this would reduce the rate of inheritance tax chargeable on your Estate from 40% to 36%.

However, not everyone’s Estate will pay inheritance tax on their death. Currently, each individual has a nil rate band allowance of £325,000.00 which passes free from inheritance tax. In addition, if you choose to leave your home to your children or lineal descendants then your Estate may also benefit from the residence band of £175,000.00. If you are married and you leave everything to the survivor of you, then on first death there will be no tax to pay.

Change in family circumstances

Family additions and family fallouts can be all too common, and it is important that your Will is up to date and reflects who you would like to benefit from your Estate.

It is important to note, that if you choose not to include one of your children in your Will then they may apply to the court for an Order for financial provision from your Estate. If you have put a Will in place together with a ‘reasons why letter’ demonstrating careful consideration of your decision then this can go a long way in preventing these sorts of claims carrying weight in court. If you are concerned that anyone may feel disappointed not to have benefitted from your Estate then we would be happy to discuss this with you and help you to prepare and safeguard your wishes in the best way possible.

Please note that this article is not intended to be advice and it is important to speak to one of our Wills and Probate team to make sure that your Will fits your circumstances.

If you would like some assistance with preparing one of the most important legal documents that you will make during your lifetime then please consult our specialist Wills and Probate team on 01244 312 306

Call and speak to a lawyer on 01244 312306