If you've already made your will, you may think it is good enough to let it be until the time comes to use it. Unfortunately, this is simply untrue. While it is good to have a will, especially considering how many people do not have one, an outdated will can create numerous complications for your family and loved ones once you pass away.
Many life changes may affect the terms of a will, making it necessary to review its terms regularly and possibly amend them. Also, the laws that govern estate planning and taxation are constantly changing, so even those who have not experienced significant life changes may still need to look their will over and make sure it complies with current laws.
If you find that it is time to review your will, be sure that you understand all the issues at hand, especially when it comes to changes in the law that may affect you. For many people, it is useful to consult with an experienced attorney who can examine the fine points of the document and offer sound guidance surrounding changing tax laws and other legal concerns. Professional guidance protects the rights of those who are not comfortable navigating these issues alone.
Life changes to consider
Depending on the complexity of your estate and the wishes outlined in your will, numerous life changes may necessitate review or amendment. These include:
- Your own marriage or divorce
- Marriages or divorces among your beneficiaries
- Death of a beneficiary
- Additions to your family, or the families of your beneficiaries, through birth or adoption
- Significant losses or gains to your estate
- Alterations in your investments or retirement planning
- New tax and estate planning laws
- Changing personal preferences
These changes may affect the terms of the will, and if you pass away without addressing them, then your beneficiaries may face serious conflicts attempting to discern your wishes in light of these changes.
If, for example, you divorce the mother or father of your children and remarry someone else, you may intend to remove your former spouse from your will to reflect the change in your personal and legal relationship (and should certainly at least consider doing so). If you never make these alterations, your children's parent and your new spouse may fight over who is actually entitled to which portion of your estate.
This is only one example among hundreds of conflicts you may create by failing to amend your will properly on a regular basis. Even if you do not experience life changes, it is wise to review your will at least every four years.
Don't wait to review and amend
If you've created a will, then you have at least a passing understanding of just how finite our lives are. Don't put off reviewing your will and making any necessary amendments, for the sake of the ones you love and the preservation of your legacy.