Whether or not we have a Will in place, I think everyone is aware of the importance of making one.
However the temptation is that once a Will has been made, we sit back, breathe a sigh of relief and consider it job done. Unfortunately that may not always be the case and a couple of estates which I have dealt with recently highlight the importance of reviewing your Will on a regular basis, not only in light of fluctuating financial circumstances, but also if there are any major family changes.
In the first matter an elderly lady had a Will prepared which left her entire estate to her sister and appointed that sister as Executor. This appears very straightforward except that her sister predeceased her and the Will did not provide for an alternative Executor or beneficiary. The estate fell to be dealt with under the Intestacy Rules, and enquiries were made into the deceased’s family members. It transpired that the deceased was one of 8 siblings, of which 6 had already predeceased her leaving families of their own. Under the Intestacy Rules the siblings are the beneficiaries of the estate, however if they predeceased the individual making the Will, leaving their own families then the deceased sibling’s children would inherit their share instead.
In all there are 13 people entitled to a share in the estate, and we have had to instruct enquiry agents to trace some of the beneficiaries, involving additional time and costs to the estate in dealing with matters.
In the second estate, a gentleman made a Will when he was in a relationship with his then partner, leaving his entire estate to her. They subsequently parted on difficult terms and he never updated his Will. 6 years on and she remains as the sole beneficiary of his estate, a fact which has caused great distress to his family following his death, but in respect of which there is nothing which can be done to amend the terms of the Will.
In both cases, a simple review of the Wills in light of changing family circumstances could have resolved these problems, and we would recommend that Wills are reviewed at least every 3-5 years – sooner if there is a major change in your circumstances. Even if nothing needs changing, at least you will be reassured that your Will still reflects your wishes.
If you would like to discuss this in more detail, or to arrange a free 30 minute review of your existing wills, please get in touch with Kathryn Caple on 01283 526230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.