When and Why You Should Update Your Will
How long has is been since you created your will? When was your last update?
Once a will is written, be it a formal will or simple will, you can’t just ignore it. Just like you evaluate your financial portfolio and visit the doctor for checkups, you should also review your will. Personal wishes and circumstances change as well as the law. A general rule is to review your will every three to five year, or, if you’ve had major life changes, more frequently.
Reasons to Update Your Will
The executor, or personal representative, is required to carry out your wishes as you’ve put in your will. This person doesn’t have a lot of ability to interpret and second-guess your instruction. Therefore, if your executor has an out-of-date will, those are the instruction that are to be used. If you don’t want money going to your ex-spouse, but your will says some will, you should have planned for that.
Children and grandchildren might receive nothing if they weren’t alive when the will was created. The court might have to pick a guardian for your minor children. Changes in inheritance tax laws may put a larger than expected dent in your beneficiaries’ bequests. All of these worst-case scenarios can be avoided if you regularly review your will.
Common reasons to consider updating your will:
- Someone named in the original will has died
- Your marital status has changed since the will was written, and you’re now married, divorced, remarried or widowed
- You had no children when the will was originally written and you’re now a parent, or you have more children than when you originally drew up your will
- Your children are now all at least 18 years old
- You’d like to add or remove heirs
- You’ve acquired or disposed of a significant asset, such as a house or business
- You’ve changed your mind about how you’d like your assets to be distributed after your death
- The value of your estate has increased or decreased significantly
- You’d like to add or change the charities named in your will
- You’ve moved to a different state
- New laws have been passed that would effect your estate
- You’d like to change the people originally designated as guardians, trustees or personal representatives
- A witness to your original will has died or can’t be located
- It’s been more than 5 years since an attorney last reviewed your will
How to Change Your Will
It’s important to understand that you can’t just take pen to paper and write on your will – this can invalidate it. To make sure that your wishes are followed, your lawyer may create an amendment called a codicil to your will, may make the changes in the original document (if on a word processor), then print a new copy to be signed and witnessed; or, if the changes are significant, may completely rewrite the entire will.
Question for Your Attorney
- How much do you charge for changing a will or adding codicil?
- Do I need to change my will?
- How do I ensure that my old will is not used?