When should I update my will?

Published 10 Aug 2015

Author: David Cossalter

An inheritance dispute is more likely to arise when someone fails to write a will or doesn't ensure the document is updated regularly. After all, there are many life-changing events that could affect how you want to distribute your assets when you die.

NSW Trustee and Guardian suggests reviewing your will either every five years, or when there is an important milestone in your life that might change your financial priorities.

Here are some examples of when reassessing your estate planning needs is recommended. Otherwise your assets could be the subject of a challenge on your will.

1. Marriage

Your wedding day is likely to be among the most important events of your life. However, any previous will you've written becomes automatically invalid when you tie the knot.

It is therefore crucial to update the document soon after you get married to avoid any confusion over your intended beneficiaries.

2. Divorce or separation

Sadly, not all couples stay together, which is why you should revise your will after separating or divorcing a spouse.

Some parts of your will may be revoked when you divorce, such as when you've made your wife or husband an executor, trustee or guardian. Any gifts given to former spouses may also be cancelled.

3. Children

Many people leave a significant proportion of their estate to their children, so you'll want to ensure they are clearly mentioned in your will.

This is particularly important if your sons or daughters are younger than 18 because they are more likely to need financial support if the unspeakable happens. You may also want to update your will when any grandchildren are born.

4. Executor incapacity

An executor is an extremely important person in your estate planning processes. They perform a number of tasks upon your death, including taking an inventory of your assets, paying any debts or expenses and distributing your estate.

Therefore, you must review your will if an executor predeceases you or become otherwise incapacitated. You may also want to change your will if the relationship between you and your executor becomes strained.

5. Beneficiary dies

A beneficiary passing away before you may necessitate updating your will. However, a way to avoid this is to name substitute individuals who can take the place of a beneficiary who has died.

Alternatively, you may decide to simply distribute the deceased's share of the assets among the remaining beneficiaries.

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