When Should I Create a Will, and How Often Should I Update It?

In a recent will and estate planning study completed this year, researchers found that 68% of Americans do not have wills or estate plans created. So, if you’re one of the few who’ve created a plan for your assets, you’re ahead of most.

Putting a will or estate plan together can be uncomfortable, but you should have one if:

1. You’re a legal adult

2. You have assets or savings

3. You’re getting married

4. You’ve started a business

5. You’ve purchased a home

No one wants to sit with an attorney planning their future death, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief once you are finished putting it together. It’s important to remember that even once your will is done, it’s not done forever. You will is a dynamic legal instrument that should be revised in accordance with your financial and lifestyle changes. There are obvious times when you will need to revisit your will and have it updated to fit family additions and deaths. When your circumstances dictate, you may need to update your will to reflect the changes you’ve experienced. It will last longer and serve you better when you allow your will to grow with you.

7 Reasons to Updated Your Will Immediately

If you aren’t sure what qualifies as a circumstance change warranting an update to your will, here are a few examples of instances where you would want to meet with an estate planning attorney to review the terms of your will. Just like it was difficult to take the time to create your will, it can be equally as difficult to revise it when needed. Allowing an outdated will to remain in place can leave your assets unprotected and your heirs without directions for your estate. Not every will requires revisions. If you have an uncomplicated estate or make your initial will later in life, your current plan may require no additions or deletions.

Here are seven times you want to take another look at your will and consider updates:

You’ve Added to Your Family: Adding to your family is probably one of the most obvious reasons to update an existing will. Updating your will after having a child is extremely important. Any post-birth updates will focus on naming a guardian for your child and establishing a plan for any future children. If you plan to have additional children, you don’t want to be forced to change the language of your will every other year, so your attorney can help you keep the language flexible so it will grow with your family.

You’ve Gotten a Divorce or Plan to Get One: If you are planning to divorce, a visit to your estate planning attorney should be your next stop after your divorce lawyer. If you’re considering a divorce, you should change your will before you file. If you were to die before the divorce was finalized, your spouse would be entitled to everything instead of the assets they will keep in the divorce settlement. If you don’t have the chance to change your will before the divorce filing, it’s imperative to do so once the divorce is finalized. If your name changes after the divorce, you will need to update those details.

Your Children are Grown: Time passes quickly when raising children and working. Before you know it, your minor children will be adults. Their treatment in your estate plan will need to change to reflect their age and marital status. If you have family property or an asset that you plan to leave to your child that must remain in the family, you may need to add documents to your estate plan to reflect these requests. You can create a trust for your children with post-nuptial requirements that must be met before any distributions are made from your estate. It’s important to make these changes when your child is of age to marry. Even if they never marry, your assets will remain in the family instead of becoming marital assets if your child marries and divorces.

Beneficiary Issues: You may have more than one or two beneficiaries, and just as your life will change over the years, so will theirs. Most of these changes won’t impact their inclusion in your will; however, some changes will. If your beneficiary stands to inherit a windfall, you may be concerned about certain lifestyle choices and issues in their life. Serious financial or drug problems could mean your heir may not ever see their inheritance or could squander it destructively. You may need to change your will to include a trust for the beneficiary with a third party managing the assets and distributions. These changes wouldn’t prevent your beneficiary from inheriting any intended assets, but they can protect them from themselves and any creditors. Plus, if their situation changes, the trustee will be able to assess the situation and make accommodations. If your beneficiary dies before you, you’ll need to update your will to reflect the change. Sometimes contingencies are put into place when the will is drafted but ensure you still want to keep the current terms.

Legislation Changes or Expirations: The laws of the land change more often than you’d think, so make certain you are staying on top of your assets and how they will be distributed once your estate plan is executed. Congress passes laws that can impact your estate plan, especially if you are leaving behind heavily regulated assets like retirement accounts. You shouldn’t have to worry about this problem every year, but it’s good to check with your estate planning attorney every few years to determine if your will needs updates to counteract legislation changes.

You’ve Experienced a Windfall: If you inherit a large sum of money, win the lottery, or make some amazing investments that pay off, you need to ensure your will reflects these additional assets. You may want to start giving your family tax-free gifts before they inherit them, so you can work with your attorney to consider your options.

Your Relationship with a Beneficiary has Changed: If you’ve had a disagreement with a beneficiary and you want to disinherit them, you may want to take a beat and consider carefully before making the change to your will, especially if the person is a friend. Your close family members can contest your will during probate, but your friends cannot. If you disinherit a friend, it’s forever – even if you change your mind but don’t get a chance to update your estate plan. Hurt feelings, arguments, and deep disagreements can derail your estate planning goals if your heirs have also fallen out with the same beneficiary. The goal of your will is to eliminate confusion regarding the distribution of your assets, so don’t let a change in relationship derail your hard work.

Clarksville Estate Planning Attorneys

If it’s been several years since you’ve looked at your will, there could be updates you need to make to your estate plan immediately. Your will won’t serve you well or meet your objectives if it’s outdated.

When you’re ready to update your will or draft your estate plan, contact Patton | Pittman Attorneys and schedule a consultation today at (931) 361-4477.

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