• You Have Moved
If you have moved states, its especially important to change your will. Laws governing estates vary by state, as different states have estate taxes or different requirements for validating a will. Some states may not allow a handwritten will, or may require multiple witnesses.
Even if you haven’t moved states, it’s a good idea to check your will. Many will specify real property in detail, specifying addresses and other features. If your current residence isn’t in your will, it could lead to confusion.
• Changing Family Dynamics
Sometimes, changes in the family are exciting! From birth and adoption to your children becoming adults and getting married, new people enter our lives. Sometimes the changes aren’t as happy – someone gets divorced, two family members have a falling out, or someone dies. Maybe you want to give the child who served as your primary caregiver a little more of your inheritance. If something happens between the time you last updated your will and your death, your will may not reflect your wishes.
• Gift to a Child
We often leave provisions for specific items in our wills. When you draft your will, you may want your younger child to have your favorite rocking chair. Sometime later, you change your mind and give the chair to your oldest child. Imagine their surprise when the will is read and the chair that’s supposed to go to one child is in the hands of the other! If you don’t update your will, then things could become confusing or contentious after your death.
• Your Assets Have Changed.
Imagine you held one hundred shares of Tesla stock when you made your will in 2018 – worth about $7000.00 total. Several years later, the price of Tesla stock has increased nearly a thousand percent! Suddenly, your hundred shares are worth close to $70,000 dollars! Or maybe the random piece of property you deeded to one child exploded in value. If your goal is to compensate your various heirs in a fairly even manner, you should update your will regularly to ensure that there are no hard feelings.
• Charity Relationships
Your charity relationships have changed. Maybe you discovered a new charity that means a lot in your life. Or maybe the charity you once trusted had a scandal or changed their vision. Either way, your current feelings will only be reflected in your will if you update your will!
• Change Executors
One of the most important choices to make in your estate planning process is who you choose to administer your estate. Serving as an executor is an honor that requires a lot of trust from the decedent and a lot of work from the executor. There’s a variety of reasons you could want to change your executor. Maybe the executor died, proved themselves untrustworthy, moved away, or there’s someone more qualified to serve as executor. Regardless of the reasoning, you should periodically ensure that your executor is fit to serve, and change it if not.
• Poor Health
Whether you are suffering through a health crisis or simply are growing older, we think more about estate planning in perilous times. Unfortunately, age and disease also impact our mental capacity. Many disputes over estates arise because a change was made when the subject was infirm or incapacitated. If you truly want to make a change but are declining in health, its best to implement these changes sooner as opposed to later. On the other hand, clarifying your intentions in the early stages of decline can help bolster your will against challenges later on.
While you don’t have to edit your will every month, you shouldn’t simply draft a will and forget about it until a life crisis decades later. As the people, assets, laws, and desires surrounding our life change, you should regularly update your will in order to make sure your wishes are clearly implemented after you die.