Updating Your Will -- There May Be More Reasons to Do So Than You Realize
Your Last Will and Testament is your only chance to decide what happens to your estate
assets upon your death. It is the cornerstone of your estate plan -- the document from
which all other estate planning tools flow. Once you have taken the time and effort to
create your Will, don’t make the mistake of failing to update it when necessary. Some
reasons that a Will needs to be updated are obvious; however, consider the following, not
so obvious, reasons as well when deciding if it’s time to take another look at your Will.
Death: People think to update a Will when a parent, spouse or child dies, but the
death of the person named as executor or guardian of your minor children can also
prompt a review of your Will. The death of a business partner or even an in-law
may also warrant a Will update.
Marriage or Divorce: Clearly, your own marriage or divorce calls for a revision of
your Will; however, other marriages or divorces may also necessitate a change.
The marriage or divorce of a parent, child or guardian, for example, can call for a
review of your Will.
Birth: Although it is easy to rely on a generic term, such as “issue”, to cover all of
your children or grandchildren, it may be preferable to name each beneficiary by
name in your Will to avoid any possible future confusion. As such, take the time
to update your Will when there is a birth in the family.
Beneficiary Reaches the Age of Majority: Minors cannot inherit directly in your
Will. As such, you likely named a trustee for any minor children when you made
your Will. If a child has reached the age of majority, you will need to remove the
trustee and provide for the direct transfer of those assets to the beneficiary in your
Change in Assets: Although you may have a general provision in your Will for
any asset not specifically named, if you acquire an asset worth a significant
amount of money, or sell one, you may need to update your Will to address that
asset for clarification.
Change in Location: In the confusion of a move, people typically don’t think of
how residency can affect a Will. State laws, however, can directly impact
provisions in your Will, warranting a review and possible revision.
Change in State or Federal Laws: Laws change on a regular basis. Federal tax
laws, for example, seem to continuously change. A significant change in either a
state or federal law can result in the need to make a corresponding change to your
You Reach the Age of Required Distributions: IRAs and 401(k)s typically require
you to start taking distributions around the age of retirement. If you have
significant funds in one of these accounts, the required distributions can change
your asset structure enough to warrant a Will update.
Change in Guardian: This is a big, yet often forgotten, reason to update your Will.
Regardless of the reason why you wish to change the named guardian for your
minor children, if you wish to do so you must make it official by revising your
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