The biggest mistake people make when it comes to making a Will is failing to periodically update it. Usually, someone makes a Will, places it in a safe, and forgets about it. This can be costly and easily ruin your carefully crafted estate plan. Here are 8 reasons to open up that safe and dust off your Will.
Only you know what’s best for your kids. You wouldn’t let the state raise them while you’re alive, so why let them do it when you die? It’s not a pleasant notion, but even if you have a spouse, it’s possible that something could happen to both of you. This is a situation where the cliché “better safe than sorry” really does apply. Choosing a guardian for your minor children ensures they will be cared for by someone you know and trust. This provides peace of mind for the whole family.
You remember when they were little just like it was yesterday, but now they’ve got kids of their own, or maybe just a dog and an apartment. Either way, a good estate plan is going to have special provisions in place for gifts left to minors. Most of the time, this will be handled in the Will. If you haven’t updated your Will since Junior was in diapers, it’s time to revisit and revise. Make sure your assets are going to be distributed in a way that’s helpful instead of cumbersome!
In the unfortunate event that a beneficiary under your Will has died, it’s time to re-evaluate your bequests. If there is no alternate beneficiary the property might be distributed to the residuary beneficiary (the beneficiary you name to take everything not disposed of elsewhere in your Will), a descendant of the beneficiary, or one of your heirs. To avoid a confusing and potentially unintended result, it’s important to make sure that all of your bequests are up to date and you’ve named alternate beneficiaries for all appropriate gifts.
It’s an exciting time! It’s foreseeable that in between sampling cakes and arguing over seating arrangements, you forgot to update your Will. Couples often desire to leave all of their assets to the surviving spouse. If the old Will doesn’t provide for the new spouse, they’ll only be entitled to an elective share of your estate. The amount of this share will vary greatly depending on who else outlives you. If you want to ensure the best possible outcome for your spouse, say “I do” to updating your Will!
It’s no secret that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce. The good news is that any provisions in your Will that favor your ex-spouse will be ineffective! However, in most cases it’s still a good idea to update everything to remove the ex-spouse and avoid any shadow of a doubt. On the other side of things, if you and the ex-spouse still have a good relationship and you want to leave them property, your Will needs to be specifically amended to indicate that the divorce should not render the provisions invalid.
Life happens. The person you named as your executor is no longer the perfect fit. Maybe they’ve moved far away or you had a falling out. They could be sick, maybe they’ve even died before you, or perhaps it was that divorce you had. Regardless of the circumstances, sometimes the person you named as your executor is no longer the best choice. Choosing a new executor will avoid the potentially costly and time consuming process of having the court appoint a representative to handle your estate.
When you adopt a child or a child is born after the execution of your Will, it should be updated to include the new child. If you fail to provide for them in your Will, they will be entitled to take a share of your estate as determined by state law. This statutory share is potentially going to be significantly less than you would have left them otherwise.
Your Will is flexible and may be modified freely until you die. Even if none of the previously mentioned reasons are relevant to you, there are a great variety of reasons to make changes to your Will. Perhaps you’ve acquired new property or you want to make a gift to a person or charity not included in your Will. There are two ways to do this. You can publish an amendment to your Will (called a codicil) or draft an entirely new Will that revokes all previous Wills. In either situation you need to execute the document with all the formalities; it should be signed, witnessed, and notarized. Any attempt to modify your Will at home by writing over provisions, crossing out provisions, or changing language, can cause big problems. The provision could cause confusion when it comes time to distribute the estate, be held unenforceable, and could result in a drawn-out legal battle.
These types of situations cost more than just money; they cost relationships. You’ve made it this far and done the hardest part. You’ve taken the steps to draft and execute your Will. Don’t let your perfect estate plan be undone by avoidable mistakes. Have changes made by a Community Legal Advisors attorney before it’s too late!