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04 March 2014

Why and how often should I update my Will and estate plan?

Good estate planning ensures that your assets go to the people that you want to benefit when you die. A large part of good estate planning is having a valid and up-to-date Will.

Good estate planning ensures that your assets go to the people that you want to benefit when you die. A large part of good estate planning is having a valid and up-to-date Will.

Your Will

Once your Will has been signed, you should revisit it regularly to make sure that it still gives effect to your wishes. You should also be aware that there are some circumstances in which your Will might be revoked or invalidated, in which case you will need to prepare a new one.

If your Will is revoked or invalidated and you do not prepare a new one, your previous Will or the rules of intestacy will be applied to your estate when you die. For more information about this, see our article What is a Will and why do I need one?

Events that might revoke or invalidate your Will

The following events may have the effect of re-writing or revoking all or part of your Will:

1. marrying or entering into a registered relationship after signing your Will; or

2. divorcing a spouse that you were married to at the time of signing your Will.

These can also revoke your Enduring Power of Attorney.

In some circumstances you can make a valid Will and Enduring Power of Attorney in contemplation of marriage or divorce, which will not need to be re-written when the later event occurs.

Your overall estate plan

A good estate plan will also deal with assets that you cannot pass under your Will, including superannuation and assets in a family trust or company. Therefore, when considering and updating your Will, it is important to revisit your entire estate plan to ensure that all of the assets that you control are properly dealt with, particularly if your structure has changed since your last review. For more information about what assets you cannot pass control of under your Will, see our article What assets can my Will deal with?

Events that might affect your overall estate plan

Generally, you should revisit your estate plan at least every three to five years. Some examples of when you should revisit your estate plan sooner include where:

1. your financial circumstances change;
2. your family circumstances change, for example, if you marry, start a new relationship, divorce, separate, or have children or grandchildren;
3. a beneficiary under your current Will dies;
4. an executor or trustee appointed under your current Will dies or becomes unsuitable to act due to age or ill-health;
5. you sell or give away assets that are specifically mentioned in your Will;
6. you buy or inherit significant assets;
7. you begin to hold assets that your Will cannot deal with, such as in superannuation or a trust; or
8. the entities or structures you hold assets in change.

It is important that all of the necessary legal requirements to give effect to any changes or updates to your Will (and other documents, such as trust deeds) are completed correctly; otherwise your wishes may not be carried out. In some circumstances and if done incorrectly, small changes made to a Will can revoke or invalidate the entire document. Therefore, it is important that you seek appropriate advice rather than try to amend or alter your estate planning documents yourself.

To update your estate plan or get advice about whether it is necessary for you to do so, contact a member of our estate planning team.

Written by Hannah Kulaga, Lawyer

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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