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Updating your will

“In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”

In addition to being a slightly overused cliché, this famous quote from Benjamin Franklin aptly underlines why one of the most important documents that we can make in our lifetimes is a will. However, the very idea of creating a will can often be met with trepidation as we are forced to confront what may happen after we die, and as such it can be tempting to place our will in a dark drawer after signing, never to be thought of again. Nevertheless, as will be discussed below, it is vital that you continue to update your will throughout your life, to ensure that your estate is distributed in line with your wishes after you pass.

Change in relationship

Any time that you enter a new relationship with a significant other, it is important to consider whether you would like to update the terms of your will.

For example, you may wish to update your will after marriage. Unlike in England and Wales, your will is not invalidated by marriage in Scotland, and therefore any previous testamentary provisions you have in place will continue to apply. As such, you will need to add your spouse as a beneficiary if you wish to leave them your estate.

On the other hand, you may also wish to consider updating your will in the event that you are divorced. Under the Succession (Scotland) Act 2016, if your previous will appoints your ex-spouse as an executor or beneficiary of your estate, then they will be treated as if they have pre-deceased you, and will be unable to administer (be an executor) or benefit from your estate. If you did want them to be an executor of your will or benefit you would need to narrate that accordingly.

It should also be noted that the 2016 Act provisions do not apply to the appointment of an ex-spouse as a legal guardian to any children in your will. If you wish to appoint another guardian you would need to amend your will.

Children

In addition to the countless other considerations that arise after having a new child, you should also look to update your will. To ensure your child is protected after you pass, you may wish to make provision for them in your will or appoint a legal guardian to look after them in the event of your death. Furthermore, unless your original will has been drafted to include any future children or grandchildren, then they will not be automatically included in any current clauses. This is also an important consideration where you wish to bequeath assets to any step-children, as they will often not be covered by generic clauses, and will not benefit from legal rights protection.

New property

When you have purchased a new property, you may also wish to alter provisions in your will, to either secure your property for your family in trust after your death, or to distribute the proceeds of any sale to specific beneficiaries. In any event, if you change address you should try to ensure that documentation noting this is available to your executors. This can often be achieved by placing a signed letter noting your new address with your original will.

Change in financial circumstances

It is prudent to consider altering your will whenever you experience a change in your financial circumstances. You may have received inheritance tax advice at the time of drafting your original will, and consequently structured the document in a specific way to maximise your inheritance tax allowance. This advice would have been based on your financial position at that time, therefore any significant increase or decrease in your assets may mean that alternative provisions are required.

Change in interests

Finally, the last and potentially most important reason to change your will is if it no longer reflects what your wishes are. As time passes, you may lose contact with the beneficiaries you have left your estate to, or a charity or organisation you have included may no longer exist. In such situations, you should ensure to update your will, so that the document most accurately reflects your wishes at the present time.

If you would like more information on how we can assist with updating your will, please contact our office on 0131 200 1200 and ask to speak to a member of our private client team.

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