The Importance of Reviewing your Will

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The recent decision in the case of the Skillett v Skillett demonstrates the importance of reviewing your will on a regular basis.

In 2011, the late Charles Skillett divided his estate so that one child would receive the property and the other assets would pass to his other three children.  The intention was that all four beneficiaries should receive an inheritance equal in value.

Reviewing your will can help your wishes to be carried out

At the time that Mr Skillett prepared the will, the value of the property did equate to one quarter of his estate. This remained the case at the time of his death, but one child believed that the potential long-term value of the land meant that the will should be deemed to be invalid, due to lack of knowledge and approval.

Whilst the claim was ultimately dismissed and the will held to be valid, it is a reminder of the need to review your affairs, and to consider the potential changes in the future.

It is often the case that people writing a will want to treat children equally.  If there is a desire to be specific within the will itself, as to which assets pass to which children, it will be essential to review such a will on a regular basis.  This might be as a result of changing values or because certain assets have had to be sold.

Changing circumstances and wills

In circumstances where an individual has left a legacy of their home, but then has to go into a care home, resulting in the property being sold, can also lead to a distribution that was not desired.

Whilst it is understandable that some people wish for the provisions in a will to be specific with the division of their estate, it can cause unforeseen problems when circumstances change, and wills are not updated. As was the concern in Skillett v Skillett, the potential development value might mean that one beneficiary is treated more favourably than others. Of course, the reverse might be true, and a legacy of a particular property, which falls in value, could leave a beneficiary feeling rather disgruntled.

Reviewing your will and flexibility

It is possible to prepare more flexible wills, to cover changing circumstances.  Alternatively, it may be best to keep the terms of the will simple, potentially including requests, rather than definitive instructions, or preparing a suitable Letter of Wishes, indicating your preferences for the division of assets, which would not be legally binding.

All of these options should be considered and discussed, so that the will is prepared accordingly, and truly reflective of a person’s wishes.

Here to Help

If you need help preparing or reviewing your will, please contact Richard Horwood, Partner and Head of our Private Client team.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.