Out of date wills '˜putting family inheritance at risk', warns lawyer
More than 50 per cent of people have never updated their will to reflect a change in circumstances, leaving their estates vulnerable after death
Just over half of people have never updated their will to reflect a change in circumstances, according to an online poll.
The poll, carried out by legal firm Taylor & Emmet, found that while the importance of putting final wishes in writing was getting through, people were not aware of the need to review them periodically.
Richard Barlow, a probate expert at the company, said: “Many people still seem to think that, once that will is made, they can chuck it in a drawer and forget all about it.
“The reality is that, for your will to be effective, and truly reflect your wishes, it needs reviewing every few years, and updating if any of your circumstances should change.”
Marriage, divorce, having children, buying a house, a serious health diagnosis, or a change in business are just a few of the things that should prompt a review, he said, adding 51 per cent poll respondents had never updated their will.
Solicitor Natalie Sheldon said there were many misconceptions surrounding wills, and this meant people often left themselves vulnerable.
“Marriage is big one. There are a lot of couples out there that made a will together before they married, perhaps when they bought a house together, or had kids, and they don’t realise that getting married automatically invalidates any existing wills.”
What’s more, couples also often mistakenly assume divorce revokes a will, but this isn’t true.
“Even if there have been no personal changes, there are always changes in legislation that could affect you or your loved ones,” said Ben Brown, the firm’s trust and estate practitioner
“As estates fluctuate in value, people need to make sure their will is consistent with their finances. As wealth increases, so does the impact of inheritance tax, which means careful planning is needed to take advantage of available exemptions and allowances.”
Alex Watkinson, partner at Taylor & Emmet, has seen the impact failing to update can have on families, and gave some characteristic lawyer advice: get it in writing.
“I was dealing with a case recently where a young mum died, and because she had no immediate family members, and her will hadn’t appointed a friend as a guardian to her daughter, the girl has had to go into local authority care.
“It’s very dangerous to rely on ‘understandings’. You don’t want to be in the position of trying to prove there was a discussion that took place, that wasn’t written down,” he explained.
To find out if your will needs reviewing, contact the Taylor & Emmet team on 0114 218 4000.