UK: 5 Bad Reasons To Put Off Reviewing Or Making Your Will

Last Updated: 22 July 2013
Article by Elizabeth Neale

People who enjoy making their Will are few and far between and are generally to be found only in novels, usually crime mysteries. Nonetheless, most of us know that making a Will, and then keeping it up to date, will bring us peace of mind. We also feel that we owe it to those who matter to us.

It is easy to be tempted not to get round to it quite yet: it can wait until I am less busy at work/marry/have children/retire.

The next move may be to rationalise that delay, but our 'reasons' never stand up to analysis: a stop-gap, up to date, Will is infinitely better than not having a Will, or having one that is out of date. Here is a sample of some of the commonest 'reasons' for delay.

  1. I don't need a Will because my wife/husband will inherit everything anyway, and that is what I want to happen.

    Wrong. If you have children, your wife/husband/civil partner will not inherit everything unless your estate is worth less than £250,000: assets over that value will be divided equally between the spouse and the children. If you have no children but do have surviving parents, siblings, nephews or nieces, then the spouse does receive the estate up to the higher figure of £450,000, but only half of any value in excess of that. On these figures, the surviving spouse may well end up not even owning the family home. If a spouse or civil partner is to receive more than these stipulated amounts, a Will is needed to make that happen.

  2. It is so difficult to decide who to appoint as guardians for my children, so updating my Will will just have to wait until I can sort that out.

    There is no doubt that trying to decide who would be the guardians of young children if the worst were to happen is one of the most difficult decisions a parent has to take – and of course in most cases it proves to be quite unnecessary because death does not intervene. In the words of the proverb however, half a loaf is better than no bread. Even if it proves impossible to make a decision just yet about guardianship, a Will that puts at least the financial structure in good shape is very much better than nothing. Guardians can be appointed later in a separate document. There are ways around every problem.

  3. I have to admit that my Will is getting pretty old now, but my family circumstances haven't changed that much, so it will do for the time being.

    Wills can become out of date not only because of changes in family circumstances, but also because of changes in tax law. Recent years have seen major changes to the tax code affecting inheritances on death: what was once a tax opportunity may now be a trap, or the other way around.

  4. My son/daughter's marriage is going through a bad patch so I don't want to make any final decisions until I see how things turn out.

    If there is any possibility of divorce, this makes it doubly important to shape the Will to try to ensure that, should the parent die, a son or daughter's inheritance would not be regarded as assets to be divided between the parties on a divorce. Appropriate Will drafting can help here.

  5. I know my Will is a bit out of date but there's no need to hurry to change it because my family could always do a Deed of Variation to alter it.

    Deeds of Variation can be invaluable as 'first aid' after a death, sometimes allowing the Will to be adapted in a way that makes more sense in changed circumstances. It is not always the case, however, that a structure created using a Deed of Variation will have as favourable a tax analysis as if exactly the same arrangement had been embodied in the Will itself. Moreover it should not be assumed that the Deed of Variation route will in fact always be available following a death. For example, it cannot be used if minor beneficiaries benefit under the relevant part of the Will. If circumstances are uncertain or evolving then it is best to make a Will that has sufficient in-built flexibility to allow the provisions of the Will to be adapted, but without the problems that a Deed of Variation might face.

If you would like a copy of our fuller briefing 'When should a Will be reviewed?' or would like to talk about making or updating your Will, please contact Elizabeth Neale.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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