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Friday, February 24, 2023

Ten Reasons to Update Your Will

There is always a sense of relief and peace of mind for a Client once he or she has executed their Last Will and Testament.  Estate Planning often ends up getting delayed for one reason or another so it can be extremely satisfying once that will is signed and put away with other important documents.  However, one very common question is “when do I have to look at my will again?”  Despite some attorneys suggesting anywhere between three to five to ten years as a benchmark, there truly no one definitive answer to when a will should be updated.  Here are ten life events that could impact the decision to update or change your Will.

1. You are having your first child.  A lot of people use the impending birth of their first child as the reason to create their first will.  Your will is the document that you make your selection of guardian for your child and who will serve as trustee for any trust created for that child by the will.  This is one of the most important selections that a person can make in their will and it is highly recommended to update your will before the child is born (at which time, there will a lot less time and a lot less sleep to worry about estate planning!)

2.  Your beneficiaries or your personal representative has passed away.  Death is a natural part of life and sometimes we need to update our wills because the individuals that we have left things to or we have selected to serve as personal representative have passed away.  Wills often times include alternatives, but sometimes the loss of one or more selections force the need to update the will.

3.  You are getting divorced.  Ask any divorce attorney and they will all agree that if you go through a divorce one of the very first things you should do after the divorce is finalized is to update your will (especially if you had a will in which your spouse was a beneficiary or your selection for personal representative). 

4.   Your beneficiary develops creditor or substance abuse problems.  In life, anything can happen and, unfortunately, that includes creditor or substance abuse problems.  If a beneficiary in your will develops these types of problems, you should update your will to include trusts which would allow a third party to distribute funds to the beneficiary only under the correct circumstances.

5.  Your children or young family members becomes responsible adults.  On a more positive note, if your initial will includes provisions taking care of young beneficiaries, it is a great milestone when those young beneficiaries become responsible adults who can handle more than in your prior will (such as directly receiving bequeaths or even serving as a personal representative). 

6.  Your original will is lost.  While a copy of your will can be probated it takes longer and is more expensive.  If the original will is lost it is very important to make arrangements with your attorney to execute a new will, even if there are no substantive changes to the will.

7.  You have a falling out with a family member.  If you have had a significant falling out with a loved one, there may be reason to either not include them on the will (and the closer the connection, the more likely you have to specifically exclude them), to make alternate arrangements, or include a strong "no contest" clause in the will.

8.  You have purchased (or sold) significant assets or possessions.  Changes in assets do not always require updates to a will, but it is always good to make sure.  For example, if you purchase property in another country, you may need to have a will created in the other country.  If you win the lottery, there may be different things you can do to protect assets.  If you sell property that you had previously bequeathed to a beneficiary, you may need to account for that in the will.

9.  You have made a significant gift to a child.  Lets say you have two children and you decide to transfer your home to one child because the other already has a home.  Things can be problematic if you made a gift to one child, but the amount isn’t balanced with what you’ll leave to another child in the will.  Alternatively, if you leave something for one person in the will but give it to someone else before you die, you may want to correct that in the will.

10.  Someone has become a primary care giver for you.  If a son or daughter has devoted a great deal of time (and, in some cases, money) to taking care of you since you executed your last the will, you may want to update your document to reflect your gratitude to your family caregiver.

If you have any questions regarding Wills or estate planning, please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Samuel S. Reidy for a free consultation.


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