Is your Will out of date?
It is probably fair to say the majority of people are more likely to contemplate the consequences of not making a will than the potential consequences of failing to update their will.
If you have a will, do you ever consider whether your circumstances or those of your beneficiaries have changed since it was signed? It is often the case that potential problems are not discovered until after death and when administering the estate.
We have recently encountered a case that demonstrates all too well the importance of keeping your will under regular review. The deceased left a will but the solicitors appointed executors had ceased practising at the time of his death and the sole beneficiary had died before him. With no executors to administer the estate and no named beneficiary to inherit, the outcome is similar to that of someone dying without a will or ‘intestate’.
Another increasingly common situation is the provision of legacies to named grandchildren where further grandchildren have been born since the will was signed and therefore do not stand to benefit. This situation can easily be rectified by the addition of a codicil or by referring in the will to the grandchildren as a group rather than naming them individually. However, people often wish to name their grandchildren in their will but this example illustrates one of the potential pitfalls.
It is possible, within 2 years of death, for the distribution of an estate to be varied by way of a deed of variation and this can be effective for addressing certain issues. However, it is not always simple and certainly not a course of action that should be relied upon as there are certain criteria that need to be met. For example, it requires the agreement of all beneficiaries who will be affected and it is not possible to vary the entitlements of children or those who lack mental capacity without the approval of the Court.
If you have a will, take a moment to assess whether it still meets your requirements. For example, consider the appointment of executors and whether they are still capable or willing to act. Is there adequate provision in the event a named beneficiary dies before you? If your will benefits institutions such as charities, do they still exist? Consider life changes such as marriage, civil partnership and divorce which can all affect your will. These are just a few points to consider to hopefully demonstrate it is wise to review your will regularly to ensure it still reflects your wishes.
Siobhan Richards, Private Client department.George Ide