Your will is perhaps the most critical document you’ll ever draft. Unfortunately, many of us write wills for safekeeping and never look at them again, which can be a big mistake. We all know that lives change, finances change, and our loved ones come and leave us at different times. All these changes often demand updating your will.
Many estate attorneys recommend reconfiguring your will every time you experience a major life-changing event. All in all, it’s always a wise idea to review your will every five or so years to ensure your loved ones stay protected and your wishes are respected. Here are some common reasons to update your will:
1. A Beneficiary Listed in Your Will Passes On
If any of your beneficiaries listed in your will pass on, it’s a good idea to update your will, providing clear instructions on how to distribute the wealth left for them. However, you won’t need to update your will if your spouse dies, since wills typically list alternate recipients in case the will-maker’s spouse pass on first.
2. You Purged Your Possessions
If you have downsized since you wrote your will, it’s possible that your will still lists items you no longer own. Although those possessions will simply be skipped, the listed recipients won’t get anything in their place. So, it’s important to review your will to streamline how your current properties will be distributed.
3. You’ve Moved
If you’ve recently moved to a different state after your will was written, it’s time to update the document. Typically, your will is administered in the state where you reside at the time of death. That particular state’s laws will govern your will’s execution, and the laws of the state where the will was drafted will no longer apply.
4. You Have a New Child
Whether you’ve adopted a new child or given birth, you’ll want to ensure that your loved one is cared for and has a legal guardian listed in your will.
5. Your Marital Status Changes
If you get married, get a divorce, or your spouse or partner passes on, you may need to update the beneficiaries in your will. It’s also a good idea to update your durable financial power of attorney as well as medical power of attorney to ensure someone will make decisions on your behalf when you’re unable to. And if you want to include stepchildren in your will, you may add them as beneficiaries.
6. The Laws Change
Laws governing taxes and estates may shift over time. As a result, you may have to adopt other estate planning strategies, such as living trusts or transfer-on-death accounts.
7. Your Health Deteriorates
If you are diagnosed with a degenerative condition or terminal illness, it may be necessary to review your will while still feeling well. You may want to change your will or give away assets now, so they won’t be counted as part of your estate later.
How to Change Your Will
A “codicil” refers to a supplemental document added to your will to include small changes. To ensure your codicil is valid, you need to sign it in front of witnesses, the same way you do with your will. Although codicils are simpler and faster than rewriting your whole will, if they create possibilities for confusion, it’s best just to rewrite your will. Once you draft a new will, you should keep it in a safe place or with a trusted attorney and tell your loved ones where it is.