It is estimated that four in ten Kiwis have not made a Will. If you have already made a Will you are already ahead of the curve. Congratulations. Have a pat on the back. However, across the land hidden in kitchen drawers and forgotten in filing cabinets, there rests a vast number of unenforceable and out-of-date Wills which, when needed, are found to disappoint beneficiaries and fuel unnecessary legal costs. Most people get the formalities of writing a Will right, and a professionally drafted Will avoids the risk of your wishes not being followed, but a major cause of heartache for grieving family and friends is when the Will has not been updated.
When was the last time you reviewed your Will? Chances are high that if you are reading this article, you may not have done it for some time, but why do you need to review your Will? During your lifetime you will undoubtedly experience changes to your relationships, financial situation, fluctuations in property values and a host of other factors that can mean that your carefully drafted Will is no longer a true representation of your circumstances and wishes.
An effective will needs to be drafted by an experienced lawyer, and will save you unnecessary expense when you pass. Please note this article does not constitute legal advice.
A good rule of thumb is that you should review your Will every three to five years. Reviewing your Will is important. You may have accumulated or even liquidated assets, or there may have been changes to the law that could deem your Will invalid between the time that you wrote it and the present day. By periodically reviewing your Will you can identify any issues that have cropped up in the meantime so that you can organise and plan your estate accordingly. Even more important than a scheduled review is an update after a life changing event. Big life events should trigger a review of your Will.
These can include:
The most obvious detail to check is that you are still happy with your named beneficiaries and what is due to be distributed to them on your death. However, you should also reflect on your choice of Executors, Trustees or Guardians – their suitability may have changed too. You need to choose people who are most likely to survive you, so if they have been plagued by ill health or have died you need to review your choice. Keep up to date with tax law. Not only is your Will instruction on how to divide your estate, it is also a tool to distribute your assets in the most tax efficient way. This is especially relevant for estates of a high net worth and for those who have ‘awkward’ family assets such as family businesses or working farms which may be eligible for tax savings. Nobody likes thinking about their own mortality but having an up to date and relevant Will ensures that you are remembered for the right reasons; inheritance disputes remain one of the most divisive family issues. So, if it’s time to review your Will, get in touch. Weston Ward & Lascelles can help you at every step of the process from minor amendments through to progressive estate planning; we can help ensure that you leave the legacy you want to.
An effective will needs to be drafted by an experienced lawyer, and will save you unnecessary expense when you pass. Please note this article does not constitute legal advice and may be outdated.