Imagine getting to the end of a long and rewarding life. You’ve been careful, planned well, and secured a decent amount of assets. Conscious of the need to streamline your estate’s distribution, you devised a will many years ago.
However, there have been many changes in your life since then. This may cause your family dynamics to shift, acquire new acquisitions, or some beneficiaries no longer part of your life. In this scenario, is your will still up-to-date and effective? While many understand the importance of having a will, few appreciate the need for regular updates.
Wills are not static documents – they should evolve as your life does, reflecting your current wishes, circumstances, and legacy plan. Without frequent revisions, your will could end up causing more confusion and difficulty for your beneficiaries. Read on to learn the importance of keeping a will current. Understand why regular updates are necessary and how a wills lawyer can help you.
Reasons For Updating Your Will
Drafting and finalizing a last will is an integral responsibility. This legal document outlines how you want to divide your assets and who should care for any minor children when you’re gone. However, life is an ever-evolving journey with significant changes, which can necessitate an update to your existing will.
Significant Life Events
Life events such as getting married, divorced, or welcoming a newborn into the family can dramatically change your circumstances.
- Marriage. You can update your will to list your spouse as a beneficiary upon marriage. Many jurisdictions may automatically name spouses in a will, but you can ensure your specific wishes are upheld by explicitly including your spouse.
- Divorce. Removing your ex-spouse as a beneficiary and executor might need urgent attention if you have recently divorced. You may do this to prevent future legal complications.
- Birth or adoption. The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild would need you to revise your will to include them as beneficiaries.
Changes In The Financial Situation
Your financial situation can significantly impact the content of your will. This is important whether it’s an inheritance, winning a lottery, or facing a job loss. The value and constituents of your estate can take a considerable turn.
If you make a lot of money through inheritance, you may want to add more people to your will or give more to those already in it. On the other hand, if you lose a lot of money, you might need to adjust how to split your smaller assets. It’s important to update this document to reflect these financial changes to ensure it’s fair and follows your wishes.
Reconsideration Of Beneficiaries & Executor
Time and circumstances may change your relationships and views. Someone who was a trusted friend or a close family member might have turned into a stranger. Death, estrangement, or a shift in belief or trust are some reasons you might need to reconsider the beneficiaries in your will.
Similarly, your appointed executor might become incapable due to sickness, death, or relocation. In such instances, updating your will to set a new executor who can fairly execute your wishes is essential.
Changes In Estate Laws & Taxes
Laws constantly evolve to cater to societal changes, and estate laws or taxes are no exception. You should regularly review your will and update it, if required, to ensure it remains effective and compliant with the current laws. This guarantees that your wishes remain legally tenable and will carry smoothly upon death.
Acquisition Of New Assets
Acquiring new assets transforms the composition of your estate. This involves purchasing a new house, inheriting a piece of land, starting a business, or even buying a boat. You should incorporate these into your will since, without explicit instruction, these assets fall into state intestate laws. If this happens, their distributions might be contrary to your wishes.
Involvement Of Digital Assets
In this digital age, assets aren’t just physical. From digital currencies like Bitcoin to your social media accounts, emails, and more, your digital footprint constitutes a part of your legacy.
Designating a ‘digital executor’ in your will is invaluable in estate administration. This person must be someone you trust because they have legal authority to access and manage your digital assets. This lowers the risk of identity theft and helps collect all you leave behind.
Gifting Strategies & Charitable Giving
Your attitudes to giving change over time. Leave a part of your estate to a charity or simply alter the share of your beneficiaries. Reflecting such changes in your will is vital to ensuring your final financial dealings mirror your latest wishes.
Keeping your will updated is not just a legally prudent move but a deeply personal one that reflects your changing life. It’s worthwhile to review and update it with your wills lawyer periodically.
How To Keep Your Last Wishes Current
Planning and maintaining an up-to-date will is a significant part of securing your assets. Therefore, you must know the key points for updating this document.
Reevaluate Your Current Will
The first step in updating your will is thoroughly reviewing the existing document. This process helps you understand what you initially included, examine the validity of these details now, and discern the critical changes.
Consider Your Personal & Financial Circumstances
Upon reviewing your current will and consulting with a lawyer, you must weigh any significant changes in your life. Consider any circumstances since you issued the previous document.
These changes could relate to your marital status, childbirth, death of a loved one, or substantial changes in your financial situation. This also includes acquiring significant assets, such as property or a business. A comprehensive reflection of your life changes is crucial to your revised will’s accuracy.
Evaluate The Impact Of New Laws & Taxes
The law is dynamic and ever-changing to keep up with societal developments. Changes in laws and taxation impact the division and tax of your assets upon your demise. Regularly updating your will ensures that someone will carry out your wishes smoothly and comply with existing laws.
Address Newly Acquired Assets & Beneficiaries
The updated will include any new assets you’ve acquired since drafting the previous will. Likewise, depending on recent developments, you should add or remove beneficiaries. A revised will addresses these changes to ensure all your assets are accounted for and distributed according to your wishes.
Incorporate Any Desired Changes In Legal Documents & Trusts
You might have living trusts or other legal documents that work alongside your will. You need to reflect any updates in these documents. Coordinating changes across all your estate planning documents will preserve their effectiveness and reduce potential confusion or conflict in the future.
Finalize & Execute The Updated Will With Your Estate Lawyer
Once you’ve determined the changes, consulted with your estate planning attorney, and revised your will, it’s time to finalize and execute the document. Your wills attorney can guide you through the steps. They will be there to sign the document as you sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses who aren’t beneficiaries of the will.
Providing incorrect or incomplete information during this final step could invalidate your will. This makes making legal assistance vital in this process.
Keeping your will updated is essential to ensure the proper execution of your wishes, reflecting changes in your life and financial status. Always consult a skilled estate lawyer to guide you through this vital process accurately.
Work With A Wills Attorney
Updating your will is essential to reflect your assets and desires accurately. These are especially helpful when your circumstances change significantly.
An estate planning attorney is a valuable partner in this process. They understand the intricacies of estate laws and can help you to navigate any complexities. They can guide you in reevaluating your will and identifying which parts need to be updated.
Working alongside your attorney allows for a comprehensive analysis of any new developments. These involve changes in laws or taxes that could impact your estate. They help you account for new assets and beneficiaries in your will or adjust existing distributions to achieve your desired outcomes better.
Moreover, an experienced estate planning attorney can advise you on other essential documents like living trusts or power of attorney directives. They will make seamless coordination of your estate planning efforts and adherence to your wishes upon your passing.
Regularly updating your will is crucial to ensure it accurately reflects your circumstances and wishes. Proactively engaging in estate planning lets you keep up with life’s changes. These may involve additions to your family, fluctuations in wealth, or changes in your relationships.
It’s not just a legal task but an act of love and care toward those you leave behind. Having a current and well-maintained will brings peace of mind, knowing someone will follow your wishes correctly. Be sure to update your will before a massive life change – make it a routine part of your financial health checks.