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Modern family structures are significantly different from what they were even just a few decades ago. They consist of step-families, second marriages, much older children and co-habiting couples. To add to the mix are parents who have separated but have not yet divorced and those where the decree absolute has finally been granted.

Family in profile looking at the view

Having said that, it’s become increasingly difficult to identify a clear “standard” family structure. With these constant changes to family structures, having a valid will in place is crucial.

When should you review your will?

A will should be reviewed every three to five years to ensure that the testator’s wishes remain the same and to check whether a potential claim to the estate could be made by someone who has either been left out of a will entirely or who believes they have not been adequately provided for.

On 1 October 2014, the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 was introduced. This act will affect you regardless of whether you have a will or not. 

Due to these changes, if you plan on relying on the intestacy rules to determine how your estate is distributed, you’ll now need to establish whether your money will go to the person you had previously chosen, and how much of it will go to that person. The act also changes the definition of who is able to apply to court for reasonable financial provisions from your estate and the powers given to your trustees.

It’ll therefore be in your best interest to draw up a will or review your existing one in order to ensure that it benefits those that you want it to benefit.

What circumstances will influence the validity of your will?

Marriage

Marriage revokes a will. If you have a will and then get married, it will no longer be valid, unless it clearly stipulates that it was made in contemplation of the marriage

Children and step-children

Step-children are not provided for in the intestacy rules. You can only make provisions for them in a valid will. Do you think that your child is mature enough to deal with the responsibility of their inheritance at 18 years old? Without a will, children inherit at the age of 18. If you want to extend this to 21 years of age, you can only do so with a valid will.

Co-habiting and not married

It doesn’t matter how many years you live together, if you are co-habiting and not married or in a civil partnership you cannot inherit under the intestacy rules. Your only alternative is to contest the estate which is a costly and lengthy process

Divorce

The divorce process can be a long. Throughout this time you’re still legally married. If earlier in the marriage you had made a mirror will with your husband, then that will is still valid. There is no such thing as “legally separated”. Therefore, if you’re living separately but not yet divorced it’s even more important to make a new will to reflect the change in your circumstances. Otherwise, you could find your-soon-to-be ex inheriting parts of your estate, or in charge of the funds that you’ve left for your children.

Your life does not remain static and neither should your will. Relying on the intestacy rules to distribute your estate could leave those you care about with more to sort out at a time when they are most vulnerable.

A valid will reviewed on a regular basis is the only way to ensure that those you want to inherit do.


If you would like assistance with your will, you can contact a wills expert on + 44 (0) 20 7759 5531 or you can email wills@sableinternational.com.

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