Clients should review their estate plan every few years to see if any changes need to be made. Here are some times that you should consider updating your Will:
1. You are having your first child - This is important so that you can name guardians for your child. It is recommended that you execute this Will before the birth of your child since you may not have time later. It is also important that your Will has language that covers the birth of future children as well if a few years pass before your next update.
2. You are thinking about divorce – If you are considering divorce, you should update your Will before filing for divorce. Often, after you file for divorce, you cannot change your Will until your divorce is finalized. If you want to make sure that your spouse does not receive all of your money if you die before the divorce is complete, this is very important.
3. You have gotten divorced – Now that you are divorced, you will want to name new primary beneficiaries of your estate (i.e., your children or other family members). You may also change your name back to your maiden name, so this could be another reason to update your Will as well.
4. Your child gets married – If your child gets married and does not have a prenuptial agreement, you may be able to create trusts in your Will to protect their inheritance in the case of a divorce.
5. Your beneficiary develops creditor or substance abuse problems – It is not advisable to leave money outright to a beneficiary who falls under these circumstances. Consider creating a Will with trusts that allow a third party to manage the beneficiary’s inheritance and make sure that it is only used for specific needs.
6. Your named Executors and or beneficiaries die – While your Will may name back up Executors or beneficiaries, you should still review and update when possible.
7. Your young family member becomes a responsible adult – It is recommended to name younger, mature fiduciaries as you age so that they will be up to administering your estate. While you may have named a spouse, sibling, or even parent, previously, they may not be the best choice if they are now older and potentially unable to act.
8. New legislation is passed – Laws tend to change every few years, specifically estate tax laws. Because of this, what may have worked when you first created your Will ten years ago, may not work now. It is essential to check in with your estate planning attorney every few years to see how legislation changes will affect your current plan.
9. You come into a windfall of money – If you inherit a large sum of money, you should discuss with your estate planning attorney if updates to your plan are necessary depending on state and federal estate tax laws. If you're subject to estate tax, they may come up with strategies to minimize the tax on your estate, such as gifting or creating 529 college savings accounts for younger family members.
10. You can’t find your original Will – If your original Will has gone missing, it is best to create a new one as soon as possible. While some states may allow for the probate of a copy of a Will, it is not worth risking if you are still healthy and able to execute a new one.
11. You buy property in another country or move to another country – While some countries allow for reciprocity of Wills, it is best to have a Will in each country you own property to avoid a lengthier and more complicated probate process.
12. Your family and friends become enemies – Family dynamics can change over time. If you have a fallout with a family member or friend who is named a beneficiary in your Will, it may be time to update your estate plan. Speak with your attorney about how to disinherit specific people that you do not want your estate to go to and make sure that they also add a "No Contest Clause" to enforce the disinheritance.