7 reasons to update your will

Creating a will can feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off your shoulders, a satisfying tick off your ‘to-do’ list. But your will shouldn’t be a ‘set and forget’ activity. It is something that will need to change throughout your life when circumstances change.

While you can update your will at any time, some common life events often trigger the need to review your will. As life takes expected and unexpected turns, keeping your will up to date is the only way to ensure your wishes will be carried out correctly.

Here are a few life changes that may mean that you are due to update your will.

1. A new marriage or de facto relationship

Most people don’t realise that if you get married, your will is automatically revoked unless it contains a provision that states it was made in contemplation of the marriage. Also, if you prepared a will before marrying that was conditional upon the marriage taking place, and that marriage did not happen, it’s important to prepare a new will.

While a new de facto relationship won’t revoke your will, if you have moved in with a de facto partner, you should consider updating it. Living together creates a legal obligation for each partner to look after the other, and your de facto partner may have a need or an entitlement to your assets.

2. A divorce or separation

If you get divorced, your will is revoked. To what extent, can depend on which Australian state or territory you live in, as the laws are different. For example, in some states, a divorce may revoke any clauses that grant benefits to the divorced spouse. In others, the entire will may be revoked.

As well as updating your will after divorce, you may need to consider updating your super beneficiaries, any powers of attorney you have appointed, and any other legal documents you have in place that involve your previous partner.

It is important to note that separation does not affect your will until the marriage has been formally dissolved. Also, in every state except Queensland, the breakup of a de facto or registered relationship does not affect your will or any other legal documents.

3. A growing family

A new baby or other addition to your household is another reason to update your will as it is likely that you will want these family members to be provided for from your estate. If for example, you

have children who are now financially dependent on you, you may also wish to update your will to ensure they are taken care of upon your death.

4. A change in your financial circumstances

A significant change in your financial circumstances and assets should call for an update to your will. This can include buying or selling a property or setting up a company, business, or trust.

On the other hand, maybe your assets have decreased in value or you no longer own assets that were previously listed in your will. It’s important to review your will if you do experience a change in financial circumstances and check if it needs updating.

5. The death or incapacity of a loved one

In some instances, you should consider updating your will if a beneficiary or executor named in your will passes away or becomes mentally incapable. While your will may have an alternate executor and beneficiary listed, updating your will to ensure the deceased person is replaced can help to avoid complications in the administration of your estate.

6. Your children turning 18 years old

Many people go years without updating their will, and in that time, their children may have turned 18. The current age of your children may affect the way you wish to distribute your estate to them, as you may have had a different plan in place now that they are adults. It’s also useful to know that once your children turn age 18, they can also be appointed to act as your executors.

7. A change in legislation

Changes in legislation are frequently overlooked, however, they can have a significant impact on your plans. We will usually provide information on any important changes via these blogs, however, if you become aware that legislation relating to wills or estates (or super) has changed, it’s a good idea to check in with a lawyer to understand to what extent your financial affairs may be affected.

Need to update your will?

These are all common scenarios where life events can trigger the need to update your will. It may also simply be a case of changing your mind about who you want handling your affairs, or how you want your estate to be distributed when you pass away. This could occur at any time. Reviewing your will regularly, or as things change, is a good way to help ensure that this important document is still working in the best interests of you and your loved ones.

Get in touch with the team at APS Wills & Estates to create or update your will.

Written by APS Wills & Estates Principal Lawyer Phillip Lambourne

Phil is a lawyer with over 35 years of experience in private practice and over 25 years of experience in the trusts and estate planning area. As Principal Lawyer with APS Wills & Estates, Phil provides advice and prepares documentation in the areas of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Probate and Estate Administration for clients across Australia. He also provides clients with conveyancing and property law, commercial law and state tax advice services.

When Phil isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with family, reading new books, and watching new shows with some good scotch whisky, red wine and cheese. Phil also enjoys playing trombone in the Melbourne Lawyers Big Band!