THE horrendous death rates of the coronavirus pandemic have brought one’s own mortality into sharp relief, leading many of us to consider getting our affairs in order in case the worst should happen.

The first step in this regard is to make a Will to ensure your property and belongings are distributed according to your wishes when you pass away.

If you die without leaving a valid Will it means you have died ‘intestate’ and the law decides who gets what, regardless of need and your relationship.

Leaving a Will is particularly important if you are from a farming family as you may also want to ensure the continued success of your business.

For example, you may want to pass the farm to a specific child who has continued working on the farm while their siblings have moved on.

If agricultural assets make up the bulk of your estate and you have not left a Will, your farming business may need to be broken up and sold off to ensure all your dependants get their fair share under intestacy laws.

As Lynne Smith Wills & Probate specialist at Pearsons & Ward in Malton explains, not only is it important to make a Will, it is also vital to regularly review it to ensure it reflects any change in circumstances, especially in these troubled times.

There are many reasons why you may want to change your Will:

• you may have fallen out with an intended beneficiary;

• divorce or separation may mean amendments are required;

• new people may come into your life who you want to leave assets to; or

• intended beneficiaries under your Will may have died.

Usually, if a beneficiary dies before you, the beneficiary's gift will fail and they will not inherit anything from your estate.

Whatever you wanted to leave them will revert to your residuary estate to be redistributed. It is sensible, therefore, to make provision in your Will if you want the gift to be redirected should this situation arise.

This would state that if the intended beneficiary dies before you then alternative beneficiaries will receive the gift instead.

The Government recommends that you review your Will at least every five years and after any major change in your life, such as:

• if you get married, separate or divorce;

• have a child, adopt or have a grandchild;

• if you move house; or

• if the people named in your Will as executors or guardians to your children have died.

Making changes to your Will

You cannot simply make amendments to your Will after it has been signed and witnessed. If you want to make a minor amendment to your Will you could use a codicil. This is a legal document that alters part of your existing Will but leaves the rest intact. It is separate to the Will itself and needs to be stored alongside it.

You might want to use a codicil for such matters as changing executors, removing a beneficiary, or changing the amount you want to leave to a beneficiary, adding a new beneficiary or updating your funeral wishes.

If you want to make major changes to your Will, your best option is to draw up a completely new Will.

You should state in the new Will that it revokes all previous Wills and codicils.

You should then destroy your old Will by burning it or shredding it.

For more information on making a Will or any enquiries regarding private client law, please contact Lynne Smith at Pearsons & Ward on 01653 692247 or email to see how we can assist.