The estate planning process is a task that takes careful thought and review to put important documents in place that reflect a person's wishes and circumstances at the time of making the documents.

Of course, circumstances change, and whilst it may not be practicable to review your Will every three or five years, significant life events should be seen as an opportune time to update your Will as the events may affect your wishes or impact on how your Will operates.

This article outlines 5 key events that should trigger you to review and update your Will.

(1) Marriage

If you marry after your Will was made, the Will becomes invalid. This means that if you get married and fail to update your Will, you will die intestate and your estate will, instead, be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy which is a predetermined formula that sets out who your beneficiaries are.

It is possible to include an express clause in your Will that states the Will is made in contemplation of marriage to your spouse and this will avoid any possible revocation of the Will.

(2) Divorce and separation

The impact a divorce has on your Will is that any gift/inheritance to the former spouse and/or appointment of the former spouse as an executor is revoked unless there is a contrary intention expressly included in the Will.

Unlike divorce, separation from your spouse or partner does not have the same effect and your Will would remain the same. If you fail to update your Will upon separation from your spouse or partner and you die, then they may still benefit from your estate or be entitled to act as your executor, regardless of whether you wanted this to occur.

(3) Death

It is important to review and update your Will after the death of any family member or person who may be included in your Will. For example, your executor may have died before you so you should ensure there remains a valid executor for your Will to avoid any issues that may arise with your estate administration.

Similarly, a beneficiary may have died, and your Will may include a specific gift to that person which would now fail. The Will may also provide for the deceased beneficiary's share to pass to their children or another family member, which may not be as intended so it is important to ensure that your beneficiaries remain the people chosen by you.

(4) Children

A birth of a child is an exciting and no doubt busy time in a person's life, but it is also an appropriate time to review your Will or at the very least make one for the first time as there are implications for your Will when a child is born.

There are legal measures you can put in place that appoints someone to be the legal guardian of your child if you die and you can include provisions that allows your child to receive their inheritance at a certain age.

(5) Change in the value and nature assets

A change can occur to the nature and value of your assets which necessitates a review of your Will. The value of assets fluctuates over time and you should review your Will when your personal assets may no longer meet the intentions in your Will. There may be specific assets gifted to someone under your Will and if those assets do not exist at the time of your death, then the beneficiary may end up with nothing.

How you own assets is also important. There are rules that prevent you from gifting assets that are held jointly with another person. The rule of survivorship provides that any joint assets pass to the surviving joint owner on death.

The way forward?

An outdated Will is not a good Will and making a new Will does not need to be a difficult or onerous task. Our experienced estate planning lawyers can assist you with this process to ensure your affairs are in order.

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.