Creating your last will and testament is a crucial part of estate planning. But it’s important to remember that it’s not a one-and-done task. There are certain times throughout the course of your life when you should update your will. Below, we take a quick look at some of the most important.
Times When You Should Update Your Will
- When you’re having your first child – This is when many people first execute their will. Obviously, naming a guardian and a trustee if you’re creating a trust for your child are important areas to cover.
- If you’re considering filing for divorce – Updating your will before filing protects you in case you pass away before the divorce is finalized (and note that you often can’t execute a new will between filing for divorce and its becoming finalized).
- After getting divorced – Once your ex-spouse has no marital claim to any of your assets, make sure you’ve spelled out who does get them.
- Right after your child gets married – If you want to protect the assets you’re passing down in the event that your child gets divorced—even if there’s no prenup—now’s the time to do so by consulting a financial adviser or estate planner and exploring options like creating a trust.
- If a beneficiary has certain personal problems – Leaving money directly to someone struggling with drug addiction, for example, isn’t always the best course. In some circumstances, you may want to consider setting up a trust where a third party oversees distribution of funds.
- If a named beneficiary or executor dies – Obviously, if someone named to oversee your estate or inherit from you passes away, it’s one of those times when you should update your will.
- When a child becomes a responsible adult – Your will probably originally named a spouse, parent, or other adult as executor. At some point (hopefully), your child will become a responsible adult and the logical choice for executor, and one who’s likely to survive any older individuals initially named.
- If you come into a major windfall – If you suddenly come into a large sum of money, it of course affects what you have to leave behind. But it also affects your tax planning and other considerations.
- When relevant laws change – At any time, new legislation that affects taxes, inheritance, business succession, and other aspects of your will may be passed. Check in with your attorney or estate planner periodically to inquire whether there have been any such changes that may make an update a good idea.
- If you can’t find your original will – You want the original document. If you don’t have it, or ready access to it, create a new one and specify that it invalidates all previous wills.
- If you move to or buy property in another country – Often, your will is valid across borders. However, there can still be considerable delays with transferring property and other aspects of execution. These can generally be avoided by drafting a different will for each nation in which you own property.