Your will is an important document. To be effective, it will probably need to be reviewed and revised several times throughout your lifetime. Changes need to be incorporated by a solicitor. You can’t do it yourself by simply penning amendments on the old version. Here are some of the major events that are likely to require changes to your will.
New children, friends or relatives
You may wish to take a look at the document if you have had additional children since your last will. If a person's estate is to be divided equally among his or her children, it usually does not matter whether a child was born before or after the will was drafted. If still not clear, a quick conversation with your solicitor will ascertain whether any alterations need to be made.
Wills don't only provide for children. Let’s say you develop a close bond with a cousin, a friend or an individual who supported you through a difficult time in your life. You may consider adding them into your will. A common way is to leave them something special you know they will enjoy – perhaps some of the better bottles from your cellar. A formal change to your will is likely to be necessary to guarantee that your wishes are met and he or she will receive the asset upon your death.
You come into money
A change in fortune could require revisiting your will. Maybe you have come into a significant inheritance. If you still wish to pass your estate on to your heirs in the same manner as before then no change is needed. Or, with more now in the pot, you may like to split your worldly possessions in a different manner.
If you come into a large sum of money, you may also wish to consider estate planning and a trust which may lessen crystallisation of capital gains taxes upon your passing. In this case, it may make sense to talk to an accountant as well as a solicitor.
You get married
A Will established when you are single is revoked by marriage. It is therefore important for all married persons to make a will. If you die without making a will during your current marriage, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws distribute your estate on your behalf which may be contrary to your wishes.
You get divorced
It is unlikely that you will wish to leave assets to an ex. Upon termination of a marriage, any beneficial gift under a will in favour of a former spouse is revoked as is any appointment of power of attorney. Nevertheless, if you have divorced since you last signed a will, consider discussing the matter with a solicitor. Regardless of your planning, your ex may still attempt to contest your will and claim part of your estate. This issue may be addressed when drawing up a property settlement with the ex by including an agreement not to contest each other’s will.
Your spouse passes away
Wills are usually written in a way that covers a situation in which you are predeceased by a spouse. Your assets may go to another relative(s), typically children. Again, you may wish to check the wording of your will. If unsure, or if you have changed your mind, you may wish to discuss this with your solicitor and distribute your assets in a different manner.
Things have changed
Many people draft their wills when they are first married or when they are young. But, people change. What seemed like a good idea years ago may not seem so appealing today. You may have had a falling out and wish to take someone out of your will. Or, whilst you still care about a person, you may become concerned that your assets could be squandered, perhaps on an addiction. In this case, you may wish to set limits on how the assets are distributed. For example, they could be held in trust until the recipient attains a particular age or distributed as an allowance rather than a lump sum.
Changing guardians for your children
If you have young children, your will may assign guardianship to a close family friend or relative in the event of your death. It may be that your relationship subsequently sours with that person or you simply believe that that person is no longer the one that you wish to look after your child.
Changing an executor or trustee
Our relationship may also change with the executor or trustees of our estate nominated in our will. There may be a falling out or they may pass away or become incapacitated. Replacing an executor or trustee will also require preparation of a new will.
We may become attached to certain charities or organizations, such as a church, particularly as we get older. If you want these parties to receive money or some other asset that will benefit them upon your death, a formal change to your will may be in order.
Inheritance taxes, known as death duties, were abolished in Australia in 1979. This means that most estate planning focuses on the capital gains tax implications of your passing. Any changes to these tax arrangements may require revisiting your situation with both you solicitor and your accountant.
Your will is a document that transfers assets to your heirs upon passing. It is designed to ensure the transfer occurs as you wished with a minimum of fuss and expense during a difficult emotional time. To do this effectively, it must be kept up to date.