Everyone should draft a will, but once you have written your will, remember it is not carved in stone. When you are faced with life-changing events, you should review it to be sure it still reflects your wishes. Even if it seems that nothing has changed, you should still periodically review your will for the same reason: Does your will still do for you and your heirs what you want it to.
Reviewing and Updating Your Will After Life Changes
It is a good idea to review and update your will when you experience a major life change such as:
- The birth or adoption of a new child. You want to make sure you appoint a guardian for the child and that the child is financially provided for.
- A change in your marital status. Whether you get married or get divorced, you need your will to be current and reflect your marital status and any provision you may have for an ex-spouse or new spouse. You may also need to revise your will if your spouse dies. This is especially important if you have any stepchildren you want to be beneficiaries.
- You experience a financial windfall. You may want to increase gifts you are leaving to your beneficiaries or to charities. This may also be a good time to consider whether there are trusts you might want to create instead of or in addition to having a will.
- You move to another state. State laws about required “legalese” and witnesses are not all the same. You want to be sure your will is valid in your new state and easily admissible.
- Your health changes. If you get bad news about your health, you may want to change the provisions you have made and may want to give away some of your assets while you are still living if you discover you have a terminal illness.
- You become a grandparent. You may want to provide for the new addition to your family.
- You decide to change your beneficiaries. Some examples may be if you have had a disagreement with a relative who is a beneficiary to the degree you want to disinherit them, you will need to revise your will. If you made provisions for a disabled relative who no longer needs your help, that is another reason to change your beneficiaries.
Even if you do not experience any life changes, you should review your will at least every three years to be sure it still reflects your wishes. You should simultaneously review all financial accounts and insurance policies to ensure named beneficiaries still reflect your wishes as part of your estate planning.