Under the laws of England and Wales, broadly speaking we all have the freedom to dispose of our personal assets (including interests in family businesses) as we wish. But that freedom relies on us leaving a valid will that sets out what should happen to our assets when we die.
If we don’t leave a valid will behind, the law sets out who gets what and this rarely provides for assets to pass as an individual would have wanted. Estimates suggest that more than 50 per cent of UK adults do not have a will, including a third of over 55s.
If you’ve never made a will and would like to understand what would happen to your assets when you die, see our guide: What happens if you die without a will?
How your will may have become out of date
Once an individual has executed a will, it is a common misperception that the job is ‘done’, that the will is there ready and waiting for when it is needed. In reality, a will can become out of date for a number of reasons, including changes in:
- family circumstances; and / or
- tax law.
Regarding the second point, there have been numerous significant changes to inheritance tax on death in recent years and more might be expected following the radical reforms to inheritance tax proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inheritance and Intergenerational Fairness.
What circumstances should prompt you to revisit your will?
If you’ve gone through any of the following since you made your will, you should revisit it now to make sure it still reflects what you want to happen to your assets when you die.
- You get married or enter into a civil partnership (this revokes any previous will).
- You have or adopt a child.
- You get divorced.
- Executor, or guardian of a minor child, dies.
- A family member or beneficiary dies.
- You move home.
- Substantial change in the value of your estate.
- You start to co-habit with someone.
The accepted recommendation is that an individual should review their will once every five years.
We can help
RSM Legal can assist you with drafting a will, either for the first time or as an update after a number of years or a major life event. Our comprehensive approach provides you with your will and advises on the tax implications, as well as looking at it in conjunction with your estate planning.
If you would like more information, please get in touch with