Life events that trigger the need to create or update your will
July 15, 2022
By Raymond M. Roberts, Esquire and Maya N. Rashid
A will provides you with the comfort of knowing that you can control what happens with your property when you pass. However, if your will is outdated, or worse, never written, your heirs could face unanticipated consequences.
Life is unpredictable and circumstances change. Fortunately, as your life evolves, you can update your will to align with your current wishes. Here are a few life events that may prompt you to write or update your will:
Marriage or Divorce
If you are newly married, it may be time to consider if you would like to add your spouse as a beneficiary to your will or name them as your power of attorney.
Additionally, if you are now divorced, it is important to update your will if you no longer want your ex to be an inheritor or executor of your estate.
Remarriage, especially if one or both of you have children from a previous marriage, absolutely should include an updated will.
Changes in Your Family Dynamic
Unfortunately, things may happen within our families which disrupt the family dynamic and may result in you wanting or needing to make changes in your will. It could be a case where a family member is facing challenges with substance abuse or is facing financial difficulties such as bankruptcy. You may want to place any share to be received by that family member in a trust to protect that person. In addition, if your child is recently married or recently divorced, you may need to make changes to your will as well. Sometimes, events happen that cause a rift in the family, and you may want to disinherit a family member.
Birth or Adoption
Your will is a crucial tool in ensuring that your children’s futures are provided for if you are deceased. It is imperative that you include the names of guardians for your minor children in your will. You will need to name a guaran for their person (a guardian to raise them), as well as a guardian for their estate (to manage their inheritance from you until such time as they are ready and capable to handle it themselves). You can name the same person as guardian for their person and estate, or name separate guardians.
It may be time to update your will if you now have grandchildren that you would like to leave a portion of your estate to. In the case of additional grandchildren, your will should be modified to account for the new member(s) in your distribution percentages.
Death of a Loved One
It is never easy to lose someone you deeply cared about, and updating your will is likely the last thing on your mind. However, your will should be revised to fill the gaps created when a beneficiary, executor, or guardian passes away.
Changes in Financial Situation
If you have received an inheritance or job promotion, then you may need to update your will. It is essential that any increases in the value of your estate are accurately represented so that you have control over how your money is distributed.
Bought or Sold Property
Real estate is a substantial investment, and it is often passed on to later generations. If you are a new owner or recently sold a property, you should update your will to accurately reflect your property ownership.
If you have moved to a different state, it is recommended that you review your will to guarantee that your documents are in compliance with the estate laws of that state.
These life events are important triggers to reexamine your estate plan, but don’t forget to also review your life insurance policies and beneficiaries, as well as any transfer on death beneficiary designations on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks and retirement accounts (including your 401K plan at work). As a general rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to review your estate plan, even without the occurrence of any of the above life events, every five years.
If life events have you considering writing or updating your will, contact us online or call (412) 338-1184.