Writing a will is a job that not many people relish. But, once it’s done, it’s done. Right? Not necessarily. According to studies, the average useful lifespan of a will is around eight years. What does that mean? It means that, in many cases, within eight years of you writing your will something will have happened to cause you to need to change it. It won’t be the case with everyone, and a large number of people really can simply write their will and then forget all about it (apart from letting loved ones know where it’s kept, of course). However, wills do sometimes need to be updated, and if they aren’t then there can be problems when it comes to probate and executing the will.
When should you update your will?
If something major happens in your life, then think how that will impact your will. Marriage is one of these major life events, as is divorce. If either of these things occur after you have initially written your will, then you will most likely need to update it to include or remove people from it.
Children are another reason to update your will. It is likely that you will want them to inherit some or all of your estate, so they need to be mentioned in your will. Guardians are also an important aspect to include if your children are under 18. And if they turn 18 after you have written the will then the guardians should be removed as they will not be required.
The death of anyone who is mentioned in your will will also mean that it needs updating, and the same is true if you fall out with anyone who was originally meant to inherit. If you change your mind, change your will, otherwise the people you don’t want to inherit will do so anyway.
Although we all know that we should write a will, over half of us still haven’t. And that could cause some huge problems for our loved ones when we die. People finally get around to making their wills for various different reasons – here are some of the main ones. Perhaps you’ll find your reason in this list, in which case, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to make your will. In fact, you should do that even if your reason isn’t below…
1. The Crown
Even if you have no living relatives and no one you want to leave your property and possessions to, you should still write a will. It may not sound like something you need to worry about, but if you have no will then your estate will go to the Crown instead. That’s the government, in other words. If you don’t want this to happen, you could write a will that specifies a charity to take your possessions.
2. Your Ex
If you are simply separated rather than divorced and you don’t have a will, your ex-spouse could be entitled to all of your assets. This is true even if the split was many years ago. Don’t want that? Write a will.
3. Family Arguments
It shouldn’t happen, but it does. A lot. If a will is not made and someone dies, family members tend to get upset about what they haven’t been left. It can lead to massive disputes and family break downs. You don’t want the last memory your loved ones have of you to be that you caused huge problems for them.
4. The Partner
Without a will, your partner or spouse is only automatically entitled to things that you own jointly. Everything else will be split – that includes the house they live in.
5. The Children
If you have children with someone you’re not married to, they will not be entitled to anything when you die. That’s just how it works. Unless, of course, you write a will.
6. The Grandchildren
If you are married to your children’s mother or father, they will automatically be entitled to some part of your estate if you die without a will, which might be fine for you, but for some people it isn’t. Some people would rather than grandchildren received their inheritance instead – so write it in a will if that’s what you want.
7. Inheritance Tax
Dying intestate can mean that your family pay more inheritance tax than they need to.
8. Dying Together
If you and your spouse die at the same time (in a car accident, for example) then the person who is the oldest is said to have died first. Their possessions will pass to the spouse but, because they are also dead, the possessions will then pass to the spouse’s family. If you are the oldest in your relationship, in this situation your family would receive nothing.
This makes for some interesting reading. If you do wish to get in touch, please do so.
It is said that the average ‘lifespan’ of a will is about eight years. This means that, eight years or so after you have initially written it, something within it is likely to be out of date. So although a will can generally be written and then ‘forgotten’, there are times when it is important to remember it, and update it. Otherwise, there could be serious problems and delays when it is time to execute the will and grant probate.
You should update your will if something major happens in your life. This could include a marriage. If you already have a will and then you marry, if you don’t specifically mention your marriage within the will then your will be revoked automatically. An update is also required if you divorce or separate. Unless you want your former spouse to receive part of your estate, you will need to ensure that they don’t with specific mention within your will. Or perhaps, despite a split, you still want them to inherit something. Making a will after the divorce will ensure that your family understand this is exactly what you wanted.
If you have children then you will also need to update your will, as it is likely that you will want them to inherit at least part of your estate. Once they have reached the age of 18, you will need to remove any part of your will that mentions guardianship, as they will no longer need it. Plus, once your children are 18 or over, they can be appointed as your executor, which may be something you want to do.
What happens if someone you wanted to inherit from you dies, or if you fall out with them and no longer wish them to inherit? They will need to be taken out of your will, which can have a knock-on effect on other beneficiaries.
If you receive a large amount of money, such as with an inheritance, you should have another look at your will as your estate might be subject to inheritance tax. If you are not sure, then don’t forget that you can make an appointment with a will writing expert (such as IWC) to go through everything with you, and ensure that your will is exactly as you want and need it to be.
We all have family we’ve lost touch with – those second cousins who we spot every now and then in old family photos, or who make an appearance at big occasions only to disappear into the ether once more when the cake has been cut. And we all have family we know nothing about – aunts and uncles, cousins, parents we never knew, grandparents too…
And sometimes even siblings.
That’s exactly what happened to a woman from West Oxfordshire who, when researching her family tree for her own genealogy project, realised she had a sister she knew nothing about.
Jennifer Coville discovered that she not only had a half-sister she knew nothing about, but a younger full sister too. The shock was huge, and she still doesn’t know exactly what happened, but she believes she would have been three, and her older brother 14, when her little sister was born and subsequently given up for adoption. Although she has met up with her half-sister, she has not been able to trace her full sister, and is stuck with the details she has.
Now 63, the grandmother from Brize Norton has said that it was all a big surprise for her, and also for her brother who, although 14 at the time, had no idea he had another sister either. Unfortunately, no relatives who might have an answer as to why the little girl was put up for adoption are still alive. The only clue Ms Coville has is that her parents divorced in 1955, in the same month that her baby sister was born. It could be that her mother, who already had two children to cope with, simply wasn’t able to look after a baby, a toddler, and a teenager as a single mother.
All Jennifer does know is that the child was called Patricia June Coville, and she was born on 5th June 1955. Of course, since she was adopted, it’s likely her name would have been changed.
The search for Patricia continues.