When Should You Renew Your Will?

Posted by

This is one of the questions we are often asked at Swansea Legal Solutions. But the answer isn’t straightforward as it can depend heavily on an individual’s personal and financial circumstances. 

According to the Society of Will Writers, ideally you should review your will and/or estate plan every three to five years. This is to make sure that your will still matches your current wishes. They also recommend reviewing your estate plan when there is a change in your personal circumstances, or if one of your beneficiaries experiences a change in circumstances.

The reason it is so important to carry out these regular reviews is to avoid potential difficult situations such as a disagreement over an inheritance for example. 

High Profile Will Disputes

In recent years, there have been many reports in the press about disputes over wills and estates involving famous people. In general, these disputes tend to come from disgruntled family members who may have been given less than what they thought to be their fair share or even left out of the will altogether. In other circumstances, long-lost family members have made themselves known to try and stake a claim on a part of the estate. 

Many of these disputes could have been avoided if the deceased person had kept their will up to date.  

Here are some examples of some of the most famous celebrity will disputes which have hit the new headlines:

  • Robin Williams – the actor, who died in 2014 from an apparent suicide, left an estate estimated to be worth around $100 million. But his third wife, Susan , got involved in an expensive legal battle with his children from previous marriages, a dispute which was eventually settled out of court.
  • Michael Jackson – though the self-styled “King of pop” did leave a Will, it still resulted in extensive legal and financial disputes – including inheritance claims made by his brothers and sisters, whom he intentionally left out of his Will. Not to mention the arguments over legal custody of his three children.
  • John Lennon – Julian, the ex-Beatle’s son by his first marriage, challenged the Will and after 16 long years an out-of-court settlement was eventually agreed with Yoko Ono – with the settlement rumoured to be in the region of £15m.
  • James Brown – despite the fact that the Godfather of Soul left a Will which appeared to be crystal clear, his $100 million estate was still subject to an inheritance claim in the early noughties which resulted in half this estate passing to his wife and children who had been expressly excluded from the will
  • Ike Turner – after the legendary rhythm and blues singer died in 2007, there was a legal battle about the validity of his Will which involved children and ex-wives

Events Which Should Make You Review Your Will 

You should review your will or estate plan should any of the following events take or circumstances change:

  • Marriage: if you marry your existing will is automatically revoked unless it was written in contemplation of that marriage and an appropriate clause is included in the will to state this. If you are engaged and planning on marrying make sure you contact the person(s) who have helped with your will so they can help you plan your will accordingly.
  • Divorce: if you get divorced any gifts in your will to your former spouse or civil partner are made void as are any appointments of them as an executor, trustee, or guardian. Even though gifts to former spouses will fail after your divorce has been finalised it is still a good idea to review your will. After the divorce your financial circumstances may have changed, or you may want to reconsider how other beneficiaries will be provided for now you aren’t providing for your spouse. You should also review your will if one of your beneficiaries divorces or is in the process of going through a divorce. 
  • Change to legislation: it is important to be aware of changes in law that may affect your will or estate planning. This is especially important if you have a large estate that will be liable to inheritance tax as if tax law changes and your will isn’t kept up to date your estate may end up paying more inheritance tax on your death. In 2017 for example there was a massive change to tax law that introduced the residence nil rate band – a special inheritance tax allowance where your home is gifted to your children (or other direct descendants). If you haven’t updated your will to take advantage of this new allowance you ought to contact a will and estate planning specialist for a review as soon as possible.
  • General change in circumstances: you should also review your will should other circumstances change such as if a beneficiary dies or has children of their own. What’s more relationships change over the years and unfortunately friends and family who were once close may drift away. So it is important to make sure your will always reflects your wishes as you probably don’t want to make that gift to the friend you fell out with!

 Source: Society of Will Writers.

At Swansea Legal Solutions we offer a comprehensive will and estate planning service for a number of private and business clients, including a review of your will or estate plan. Read more about these services here.

To book an appointment, call us today on the number below:

01792 420844

Please note we also offer appointments in your own home subject to terms and conditions.