If you have already created an estate plan – or even just a basic will – you are among the forward-thinking minority of Americans who have done so. Statistics show that just 40 percent of Americans have an estate plan in place. But creating one isn’t the only step in the process.
As you experience life changes over time, you’ll need to revisit your will to ensure that it still meets your needs and reflects your wishes. In today’s post, we’ll talk about when a will should be updated.
Significant Changes in Your Family
Assuming that your family members are named as heirs in your will, you’ll need to update it whenever a change in the family occurs. This includes:
- When you get married
- When you get divorced
- When you have a child (or multiple children)
- When you get remarried (especially if step-children are involved)
- If you enter into a long-term relationship without getting married
- If you have a falling out with named heirs and no longer wish to include them
- If a named heir dies before you do, and you need to decide to whom those assets will now be given
Forgetting to change your will after divorce/remarriage can lead to serious problems if there are disputes about who has the right to inherit. The same is true if you are in a long-term relationship without getting married, as your partner may have no legal rights to automatically inherit when you pass away.
If you have both children and step-children, it is important to make your wishes and instructions clear and in writing. Even if you intend to leave assets to both sets of children, it is best to remove any ambiguity about your intentions.
Significant Changes in Property or Wealth
Some wills have basic provisions saying that all assets will be given to one person or divided equally among several people. These wills may not need to be changed if your wealth or property changes. But if you have left certain assets/items to certain heirs, you’ll need to update your will if you end up disposing of those assets/items or acquiring significant new assets.
If you inherited family heirlooms from your own parents, for instance, you may need to specifically bequeath them to a son or daughter to ensure that they stay in the family. Similarly, if you sell your home and move into an apartment in your later years, you should remove your home from your will.
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