If you already have a Will you have taken an important step in putting your affairs in order. Particularly, if you have put a Will in place without professional advice, then it may appear to select appropriate Executors to manage your estate and then to divide your estate in accordance with your intentions. However there are limits to what Wills can achieve and your circumstances may have changed since you made your Will. Therefore, now may be a good time for you to review whether your Will meets your needs and whether there are any other steps which you should take alongside your Will to do so.
It is important to remember that Wills only take effect on death and cannot be enforced until then. Also there are certain types of asset which will not pass in accordance with your Will on your death.
This means that your Will cannot give your named Executors any authority to act on your behalf to help you whilst you are still alive. If you would like your Executors to manage your finances or to make decisions for you, perhaps after you have lost the ability to do so yourself, then you can give them this authority through a Lasting Power of Attorney.
You might have left a particular item in your Will. If you no longer own it when you die, then the gift of that will fail (it will not take effect). If this is the case then you might wish to make alternative provision for the people who would have received that gift.
An issue which arises frequently relates to joint assets. Where bank accounts and real property (your house) are owned as beneficial joint tenants, then on the death of one of the joint owners ownership will automatically pass to the remaining owners, irrespective of the terms of any Will. Whilst frequently joint assets are held between a couple and on the first to die the asset passes to the survivor mirroring the terms of the Will, this is not always the case. For example your Will might leave everything to your children rather than to your surviving partner but if you owned a property as joint tenants with your partner then they would receive ownership of the property rather than your children. The alternative is for joint assets to be held as beneficial tenants in common. In this case your share of the asset would pass through your Will and not automatically to the surviving co-owner. It is a case of knowing what you want to achieve and ensuring that the correct arrangements are in place to enable this to take effect.
You might own property abroad. Your existing Will may cover overseas assets but it might not. This will depend upon how your Will is worded, the law in the country where the asset is based and the effect of any Will in that country. Specialist advice may be needed to ensure that your intentions are met in this regard.
If you are in a position where inheritance tax is a consideration, then appropriate provision in your Will can help in relation to reducing the amount of inheritance tax payable on your death, but may not completely eliminate the need for the payment of such tax. In addition to ensuring that your Will operates in a tax efficient manner, there are further planning measures which you might wish to take during your lifetime which may further reduce or eliminate the amount payable. Professional advice in this regard could result in a large saving of inheritance tax for the ultimate benefit of your family.
Your Wills can also be used to limit the effect on your family of the cost of funding long term care home fees where your partner and you are making Wills together.
Furthermore, your circumstances may change. If you have married since making your Will then the marriage will automatically cancel your Will unless it contained specific reference to the anticipated marriage; in such circumstances it is vital that you make a new Will. Your other family circumstances could have changed. You may now have more children or grandchildren who you would like to include, or unfortunately there may now be people you would like to remove from your Will. Your wealth may have changed meaning that you might want to change how you divide your estate between your various beneficiaries. Changing wealth may also mean that you need to review inheritance tax and care home planning measures.
Therefore, even though you may already have a Will in place, you may consider that it is now a good time to review your Will and your circumstances generally.
At Jordans we are pleased to assist you, both in relation to planning your Will, or dealing with probate issues after death. We are on hand to help with any queries you may have in regards to Wills and Probate issues. Our wills and probate solicitors are based in Wakefield, Dewsbury, and Horsforth. Feel free to call us on 0330 300 1103 or request a call back.