Having a valid will is an integral part of any estate plan. It allows you to decide how your assets and property should be distributed when you pass away. But what happens if your life circumstances change? Do you need to modify your will?
Let's explore why you might need to modify your will and other estate planning documents.
To Make Changes To Your Beneficiaries
You may also need to revise your will if you want to change the people who will benefit from your estate after you pass away. This could mean adding a new beneficiary or removing an existing one. You can add or remove additional beneficiaries to reflect your current wishes.
If You Welcome New Members to Your Family
At some point in your life, you may include new family members as beneficiaries of your will. While commonly considered to be your children, your beneficiaries can consist of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other loved ones you wish to gift assets to following your passing.
If You Get Divorced
Following a legal separation or divorce, you might wish to remove your former spouse from your will and any other estate planning documents. While you may no longer be married to your former spouse, if they are still included in your estate plan at the time of your passing, it will need to be followed in the probate process.
You also should update your will following a divorce if you gain or lose property during the process. While your original will might include the home you owned with your spouse, if you did not exit your marriage retaining that or other involved properties, you will need to remove them from your estate.
If You Divorce And Get Remarried
The building of a new family after remarriage is a reason to fully re-evaluate your will. There are likely several points that you may want to modify and perhaps individuals you wish to add or remove as heirs.
One of the goals of your will after remarriage may be to preserve the rights of your children from your first marriage to continue as heirs of your estate. A skilled estate law attorney can help you express your wishes in a durable legal document.
If Your Spouse Passes Away
If your spouse passes away, you might wish to update your will to exclude your late spouse. If their name still appears on your will as a beneficiary, your spouse’s estate during the probate process, where the assets preassigned to them would then be passed to their own beneficiaries.
To Update Involved Property
Buying your first home can be an exciting time! If you purchase major property, such as a home, vehicle, or antique, or inherit an heirloom that you wish to protect, you should consider amending your will to include these valuable assets.
Likewise, if you sell your home or other property included in your will, you should remove them from your will. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through this process and help limit mistakes.
To Update Your Executor
If you previously named an executor of your will, but they have since passed away or can no longer fulfill the role, you need to assign a new executor. You must trust and know the person you choose to ensure that the instructions in your will are adequately followed.
To Update Your Children's Guardian
If you have minor children, it is essential to designate a guardian for them in your will. This person would be responsible for taking care of the children if something were to happen to both parents and could be updated as needed.
As your children grow up, you may want to change their potential legal guardian in your will, especially if their prior selected guardian passes away, moves away, or becomes unable to care for your children in the event their legal guardianship is necessary. Before you make this change, make sure to discuss your selection with the desired individual first and that they agree before you include them in your estate planning as a legal guardian for your children.
How Often Should My Will Be Updated?
While there are no set rules on how often your will and other estate planning documents should be updated, making updates when significant life changes occur is best. Some years might mean updating your will multiple times during the calendar year, while in others, you might not update your will at all. If you are still determining if your will should be amended, take the time to review your will and other estate planning documents, such as trusts, to determine if your circumstances have changed.
Can I Change My Will Anytime?
You can make amendments to your will at any time, no matter how long it has been since your last modification. However, you must be of sound mind at the time of amendment for these changes to be valid.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Update My Will?
While you can make the desired changes independently, having an experienced estate planning lawyer by your side can help you prepare these updates appropriately and follow the required procedures. DIY-ing will updates can result in invalid modifications, which the court might not choose to follow after your passing. A trusted lawyer can help you avoid potential mistakes, such as not including witnesses or missing signatures, and ultimately prepare an adjusted will best for you.
At The Law Offices of Mark S. Knutson, S.C., our attorneys are here to help guide you through some of the most challenging times in your life by helping you create a valid will that reflects your current wishes and circumstances. Call our offices today at (262) 205-0705 to learn more about modifying your will and other estate planning documents to best protect you and your loved ones.